There are quite a few famous families in the history of mankind.
Take politics. Families like the Clintons and the Bushes have officially etched their names in the history of American politics. Right alongside the earlier versions of the Adams and the Harrisons.
But famous families aren’t relegated to the realm of politics:
The Wright Brothers were known for their incredible invention of the airplane.
The Jackson 5 helped to shape the music scene.
The Baldwins are known for B-level comedy.
What is your family known for?
Think about that for a bit. What is your family known for?
Causing a ruckus at the Olive Garden?
Taking awkward family photos and posting them online?
Always being late for everything?
Is it possible that what you’re known for isn’t exactly what you want to be known for? If so…maybe you need to reexamine your family’s purpose.
Today we’re looking at God’s Word and he’s going to give you and your family – all of us as a Christian family – a Greater Purpose. Before we look at God’s Word, let’s say a prayer:
Strengthen us O Lord by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see. Open our ears to hear what you want us to hear. Open our hearts to believe what you want us to believe. Amen.
I. The Purpose of Salt
God teaches us about the purpose of his family in the great Sermon on the Mount. That’s in Matthew 5. This sermon is all about how God’s children who are a part of his family act. I want to focus in on verse 14. It says this, “You are the salt of the earth."
Check that out again. God calls his family “Salt.” Salt is an important part of the cooking experience. Salt makes a risotto taste perfecto. Salt helps Southern cooking taste just right. Salt is a dad’s secret ingredient. Salt even makes lima beans tolerable.
Salt is important because it keeps things from tasting bland. It was the same back then at Jesus’ time as it is now. People didn’t like bland food. Salt makes it taste different.
That’s what God’s family does. God’s family makes this world different.
If it wasn’t for people who loved God, this world would get pretty bland. If you turn on the TV, it already is. Murder after murder after murder. Crime after crime after crime. Hatred after hatred after hatred. Sin after sin after sin after sin after sin after sin after sin.
It’s like our world is stuck on a permanent set of reruns – the same sins over and over and over again.
But Christians are to be different. You are to be different.
Because that’s how God made you – different? Not innately. You were a sinner, too. You were apart from God and against God just like everyone else in this world. But Jesus lived perfectly when you could not. He died innocently in your place. He rose triumphantly for the forgiveness of all of your sins. Then, he worked through his Word – through a friend, a family member, a church goer – whoever to bring you to faith. In Baptism he sealed you as a member of his family. He called you his own!
Now he says Live differently. Live the #SaltLife. That’s your purpose. To be different.
Why would you want to be bland? Why would you want to be just like every other family?
A family motivated by getting the latest iPhone and the coolest new car? Dull.
A family filled with filthy language? Boring. Heard it before.
A family Friday movie night watching the same old violent, sexual R rated movies? Seen it so many times, I’d rather sleep.
A family rushing from here to there to do extracurricular after extracurricular but skipping church because that’s more important than God? That’s so generic!
And look at Jesus’ warning. If the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? That’s a real warning. If you spend too much time in the things of this world, you start to lose your saltiness. You no longer have the same flavor you did before. You start to resemble an everyday, ordinary, of this world unbeliever, and then…well... The salt is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
God’s made you for so much more than to be trampled on.
God trampled on Satan that you might trample on him, too.
You are forgiven. Live the Salt Life.
Be the family that reserves Sunday mornings for worship.
Be the family that ends the night with devotion not TV.
Be the family that says prayers instead of swears.
Be the family that follows God’s Word instead of society’s whim.
Be the family that puts God and one another ahead of what society tells you that you should be.
Be salt. Be different.
II. The Purpose of Light
Salt is not the only thing that Jesus calls for us to be. Look at the next verse. 14 You are the light of the world.
Do you know what’s kind of annoying? At our house there isn’t a light switch when you enter the apartment. In order to turn on the light you have to walk into the dining area right in front of the door and pull the little hangy thing that is hanging from the ceiling fan. What’s annoying is that sometimes when you pull it – nothing happens.
That’s because across the way beside the kitchen is a light switch that controls the electricity to that fan. If that light switch is off, the fan doesn’t turn on. So you head over to the light switch, stumble in the dark, trip over a dog bone, and flip the switch – ONLY THE LIGHT DOESN’T TURN ON! Because you just turned it off when you pulled the string!
Light is important. We need it to see, to move, to work, to eat, to live! When you are expecting light and you don’t have it, it’s really disappointing.
Jesus say, You are the light of the world. You have been enlightened. Again -- this isn’t innate! You were born into the darkness of sin like everyone else. But God worked through his Word. He worked through Sunday school lessons and Bible stories. He worked through sermons and Bible readings. He worked through conversations with your family and friends to light up your eyes and help you to see the True God --Jesus Christ – and the True Way to Heaven – Jesus again!
Now. God says it’s your turn. It’s your turn to light the way. It’s your turn to help others see.
Jesus says, A city on a hill cannot be hidden. If it’s up on a mountain side, you see it. You can’t ignore it. It’s like going to downtown Raleigh. You will see the Wells Fargo Tower. It’s big enough. It can’t be missed. And that’s the way it should be when we live our lives! It should be obvious in our families and to our families that we love our Savior Jesus Christ!
Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand and its gives light to everyone in the house!
That doesn’t make much sense does it?
Who of you would go to JC Penney, Sears, and Home Goods, find the perfect lamp, go to Lowe’s for the right brand of LED light bulb, get home, open up the box, read the instructions, put the lamp together, try it out in 5 different spots until it fits the feng shui of the room, then grab a big old tarp and drape it over the lamp?
If you are hiding the fact that you are a Christian, that’s exactly what you are doing. Whether it’s on purpose or self-consciously – you are throwing a big old tarp over the very light that God put into your life – the very light that can guide others to the Light – Jesus Christ!
Don’t do that. Let your light shine.
That’s exactly how Jesus ends this section. He says, 16 In the same way – the same way as the lamp that’s put on a lampstand to do its job – let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
That’s a key point. Because we aren’t living lives of light for our own sake. We aren’t doing it so that we can people will say, “My aren’t they are a grand Christian family!” If that’s the motivation, then we’re still in darkness.
Instead, we live lives of love. We point others to Jesus. We post things about Jesus online. We talk about him at our table. We go to church. We say prayers in restaurants. We put fish on the back of our minivans – so that others might learn about our Savior and have the same comfort in the forgiveness of sins that we have.
III. WHAT NOW?
Why not make this section of God’s Word a motto for your family? Even if you are single – why not make this your motto? “Be light.” “Be salt.’ “Let your light shine.” You could post it on the fridge. Write it in your Google calendar. Talk about it at family dinners. Pray about it with your kids before you go to bed. Ask that question, “How was I a light for God today? How can I be a light for God tomorrow?”
The more this is on your hearts and minds – the more it will be a part of your day to day life.
2. Be the Light In Your Family
Now for some of you – you might be the only light in your family. You may be the only one who knows Jesus’ love. Even if you have a family who already knows Jesus’ love – listen to this encouragement. Be the light in your family.
Don’t be afraid to talk about your Savior! Don’t start thinking, “Well, we don’t really talk about that stuff. We just keep it light. We talk about sports and our favorite America’s Got Talent Act but we don’t talk about Jesus.”
Why not? He’s not afraid to talk about you.
He tells his heavenly Father how much he loves you…
…and how he took away your sins…
…and how you are now righteous in His sight…
…and how you are the jewel of his eye?
Don’t be afraid to talk about your Heavenly Family in your earthly family.
3.Help your Family be the Light.
We recently got a candelabra that we placed over the mantle in our apartment. Beforehand, we used to put up one candle for ambience sake. One candle doesn’t give a lot of light. But this candelabra has room for 5 candles. It’s a lot brighter!
That’s what happens when your family is united. That’s what happens when you are all burning as light for Christ. God is using you to be a regular torch in your neighborhood. A bright shining light on your block.
So what’s your family known for? Wouldn’t it be cool, if the answer was simply…Faith in Jesus?
And as we wrap up this series on Family Matters – may we ask God for forgiveness – because we haven’t always been known for Jesus. Then, let’s receive his forgiveness – because we are known by God as forgiven – and live anew. Ready to take our purpose and use our earthly family to make our heavenly family known. Amen.
Maybe it’s happened to you.
You head to the living room because you hear some fighting. Your kids are wrestling each other. Fighting over who gets to use the iPad to play their game.
So you chuckle. Then you step in. You grab the iPad and tell them that neither one of them gets to use the iPad because they should love each other more than the iPad.
Then, you settle into your easy chair and you open up the YouTube section on your iPad to watch some funny cat videos. But your spouse interrupts you. She wanted to use the iPad to catch up on her Netflix show.
But I was using the iPad first.
But don’t you love me.
Yes, but I can love you and not give you the iPad.
But if you don’t give me the iPad that’s not very fair.
But you’re not being very fair by trying to take it from me.
But you’re kinda mean.
And you’re kinda a jerk.
And the kids come in and they have to separate you.
It’s not an uncommon scenario. Insert anything or any ‘stuff.’ I only used iPad because it’s a fairly, common, problem causing 21st century thing or stuff.
Do things and stuff really make life better? Is the solution just to get another iPad so everyone’s happier?
Let’s take a look at it in God’s Word this morning. We’ll see how important they really are. Before we do, let’s say a prayer:
Strengthen us O Lord by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see. Open our ears to hear what you want us to hear. Open our hearts to believe what you want us to believe. Amen.
I. Why Not Things and Stuff
Our Story actually starts with a family disagreement. Luke 12:13 says, “Someone said to Jesus, “Teacher tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”
Now we don’t know anything about whose fault it is. That’s all the intro we have. We don’t know what the inheritance was. We don’t know who was at fault. We don’t know if the brother stole it from him, if the dad only gave it to his brother or if the man talking to Jesus was trying to be deceptive and get what’s his. The Bible doesn’t say.
What we do know is that this inheritance – this property – this thing or stuff was important enough to the man to be a stinker about it.
But it wasn’t important enough to Jesus to make a ruling.
14 Jesus replied, “Man who appointed me a judge between you?”
Which is an interesting response. Because Jesus is the judge of heaven and earth. Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus is extremely fair. Jesus knows all things.
Think what it would be like to have Jesus judge the family disputes you had as a child. You could finally figure out who it was that ate the last piece of your birthday cake and mom can finally find out whose fault it was that her crystal vase got smashed to pieces.
But Jesus didn’t want anything to do with this judgment. Not because he wasn’t a good choice for judge.
But because this wasn’t good enough for him to hear.
15 “Be careful! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed. Life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”
Which is a pretty great warning from Jesus – From God himself. This stuff isn’t more important than your family. Stop thinking that it is.
But for some reason – I bet this man was probably reacting about the same way that we would react – “Yep. Family’s important. Yes Jesus. So…whose inheritance is it?”
So Jesus tells a story to get his point across.
The ground of a certain man produced an abundant harvest. (v.16) He was a wheat farmer which his crops fed himself. He lived off of the land. But there was so much that year he realized that he had all he would have all he needed for food that year. He had enough to make fresh pancakes for every breakfast, southern fried biscuits for lunch, and a fresh loaf of bread for every evening meal. He was set for the year.
The problem was that he still had grain left over. The silo that he had outback was filled to capacity. He only had one because all he had ever needed was one. What was he supposed do with all the excess?
He could give some to the widow next door.
He could give it to the local food bank.
He could help out his farmhand who had a young boy that he could barely feed.
But none of those were really what he wanted. He looked up. In the background, of his home was his barn. It wasn’t anything special. Red. Rustic. It housed what he needed, it got the job done.
But. What if it were more? What if he tore it done. What if he tore it down and rebuilt it – 2, 3, 4 times the size as before, with nice new paint, modern architecture, and the height to be seen by all of the town folk so that they could truly say: “Man that guy is awesome!”
So he got to work. He hired an architect. He hired a demolition crew. He hired contractors, carpenters, mason men, and painters. He watched with pride as his project got done. A project that would show his worth. A project for him to store his stuff. A project that would serve him well.
Finally the project was finished. He got excited to have a party. He invited his family, his friends, and all of the important people in town. He splurged on the finest catering, opened bottles of the finest wines, and prepared to have a party to celebrate his accomplishment.
And when he got to the door, his tuxedo pressed just right and his hair gelled in place. He was ready to “Eat, drink, and be merry.”
He heard a knock at the door. A party guest? He opened it.
Greetings – Great to have you –wait? – God!?!
And God said to him, “You fool! This very night you’ll die. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” (v.20)
Here’s the harsh reality. Things and stuff are not the point of this life. Things and stuff cannot make your life better. Things and stuff cannot fix your family.
But we still focus our lives on it.
All I need is…
….the latest iPad for my kid and he’ll love me.
…a new necklace for my wife and we won’t ever have marriage problems again.
…a bigger house for my family so we won’t feel so cramped and get on each other’s nerves.
…a trip to Disney World at the fanciest hotel and with the fanciest Princess party to bring your family together.
…more money and a higher pay grade so that you can get all these things and stuff.
If you think that things and stuff are what’s going to fix your life...you’re wrong. Badly wrong. Jesus said, “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.” (v.21) The “this” refers to “being without anything at your death.” It means without your luxury car and your diamond earrings to be sure – but also:
Without the riches of God.
Without God’s love.
Without his eternal blessings in heaven.
II. The One who Gives Things and Stuff
But if things and stuff won’t improve your family and make your life great than what will?
Ever seen a sparrow before?
A sparrow is a tiny little bird. It weighs about 2 ounces. They aren’t rare. There are tens of thousands of them in Raleigh alone. If you wanted to buy one at the pet store, it’d cost about a buck. It’s a fairly worthless thing and stuff.
But God cares for it.
This is a wild flower. It’s a fairly common flower here in Raleigh. Do you know what a common flower does for work? Nothing. It doesn’t have a W-2. It doesn’t have a job. It doesn’t work as a waiter or a construction worker. It doesn’t have a lot of things and stuff.
But God cares for it. He clothes it as beautifully as the high dollar section of Macy’s.
God didn’t die for sparrows. God didn’t die for wildflowers. God died for you.
If God died for you, don’t you think he cares about you? Deeply? In His heart? Things and stuff don’t care about you. Things and stuff are inanimate objects. But not God!
Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. (Luke 13:32)
God gave you a lot more than the early worm.
God gave you a lot more than a beautiful flowerlike outfit.
God gave you his kingdom.
Even if it cost Him everything that he owned! 2 Corinthians 8:9 says this, “Our Lord, Jesus Christ, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor that you might inherit his riches!” I love that passages. It describes how Jesus had all things. He owned all things – rubies, emeralds, and diamonds – lightning bolts, lava, and mountain tops.
But he gave it all up.
He gave it all up for a manger…for a pair of walking sandals…for an old, bloody cross…for a gravestone….
When he came bursting forth from the tomb on Easter, he brought with him eternal riches. He reached into his wallet full of forgiveness and passed out the exact amount that you needed. He adorned you with dazzling jewelry of peace with him. He put a crown of righteousness on your head that will never spoils, perishes or fades. He clothed you – in fresh, crisps, cooler than cool, hotter than hot, linens of eternal life in Him!
Here is the reality then. The greatest is not a thing or a stuff, but the greatest is the One who gives things and stuff.
God is the One who gives what you need to make families whole.
God is the One who gives what you need to be a part of his family.
And God is the most important One for you to spend your time seeking.
III. WHAT NOW?
But it’s nothing compared to God’s kingdom. God’s kingdom is filled with peace, forgiveness, reconciliation, eternal life, and the powerful love of the Lord! Scripture says, “Seek his kingdom.” His kingdom is found in Jesus Christ.
Seek Jesus like the world is seeking Pokemon.
If you want to improve your family, seek Jesus first.
If you want to improve your marriage, seek Jesus first.
If you want to be a part of a family, when your own family has disappointed you, seek Jesus first.
You don’t even have to go around town to do it. Not like Pokemon Go. The scavenger hunt is lots easier. I’ll tell you where Jesus is – in this Bible!
So keep that in mind with your family.
And listen in on the conclusion to that verse, “Seek his kingdom and these things will be given to you as well.” God’s not gonna give you less than you need. He’s going to give you all that you need. Clothing and shoes; food and drink; house and home; family! If you seek his kingdom first, he will not forget to provide you with all you need for this life.
2. Remember What Family Really Is
Psalm 127 says, “Children are a heritage from the Lord.”
Proverbs 31 says, “A noble wife who can find.”
Proverbs 1 says, “Hear my Son, your father’s instruction, for they are like a graceful garland for your head and neck.”
What do these passages have in common? A very important truth. Family is a gift.
Whether your family is biological or adopted or it's’ really only your church family – view family the way that God wants you to view family. As a very important gift from Him.
That means you’ll love them more than stuff.
You’ll treat them with tenderness and care like your most important stuff.
You’ll give up some of your stuff if it helps them.
3. Give a Lasting Gift
Have you ever bought your kids something expensive? Maybe an expensive pair of frilly boots from Nordstroms. About $200.
But you love your kids. You started scrounging for money. You sold some of your old jewelry. You gave up some of the money you were gonna spend on you. Your husband puts in a few more hours at work. You start selling LuLaRoe in all your spare time. Till you have enough money to go to the fancy aisle at TJ Maxx and pick out a pair on sale. You put it into a gift bag and surprise her with it one night at home.
She opens it up. You’re filled with excitement and…
…Oh these? This style isn’t in anymore.
That’s the thing with things. They don’t last. Things and stuff go out of style. Things and stuff spoil. Things and stuff fade. Things and stuff run out of battery power.
But Jesus doesn’t. If you give your kids Jesus, you’ll have given them all that they need for this life and all that they need for eternity.
Think about that when you bring them for Sunday school.
Think about that when you read them a Bible story.
Think about that when you are struggling to get them here for church.
Think about that when you are inviting your spouse to join you.
You aren’t just giving them a cup of Starbucks coffee in worship and a sugar cookie at fellowship.
You’re giving them eternal riches.
You’re giving the everlasting forgiveness for Jesus.
You’re passing on the crown of life.
You’re giving them some clothes that never go out of style – the righteous robes of heaven.
Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Matthew 6:21)
How true that statement is. If your treasure is things or stuff, that’s where your heart will be -- in things and stuff.
But if your treasure is in God, that’s where your heart will be – with God, in heaven. And if your treasure is also your family…then having faithfully shared the Gospel…there your heart, your family, will be also. Amen.
Peter made his way over to the wash basin and splashed himself with the cool aquatic stimulant. He looked around at the other men – near him. Philip was trying to get a stain off his tunic. Matthew was joking around with Jude. Nathanael was still sleeping under the fig tree.
Peter smiled. These were his “brothers in the faith”, his "fellow disciples," his "family." They had spent months together. They had learned together. They had eaten together. They had defended each other. They were a wonderful little family filled with people that he loved.
WHACK! A heavy slap hit Peter in the middle of his back. He turned around as he felt a familiar hand ruffle his hair. “What’s up Pete?”
That was Andrew. Peter’s real brother and the only part of this little “family” who knew just how to annoy him. He knew just how get under Peter’s nerves. Before they were disciples, they had been fishermen together. Andrew was known for taking credit for the haul of fish. Everyone once in awhile he took fish guts and stuffed them into Peter’s tunic while he wasn’t looking. There was that one time that Peter lost his net, searched for it everywhere, and then found Andrew calmly fishing with a brand new net offshore. He insisted that it was his, but Peter knew better.
Andrew was the one who made this whole family feel like a family. He sinned against Peter on more than one occasion.
But unfortunately, being a part of this whole Jesus movement meant that he was supposed to forgive Andrew. That’s what Jesus talked about. “Forgive each other.” Jesus harped on it.
Peter began to towel off his beard as Jesus approached him with a warm smile. “There must be a limit though,” he thought. "There must be a moment when the sins are too great, when forgiveness is impossible."
“Master,” he asked as he got Jesus’ attention, “how many times shall I forgive my brother?” His eyes were fixed on Andrew. “Up to seven times?"
To be fair that seemed legitimately compassionate. It “took the plank out of his eyes” and “treated others as he wanted to be treated.” It “loved his named as himself” and was a “salt of the earth” decision. It was just a bit crazy from the normal way of doing things…which was the way that Jesus rolled.
It just wasn’t crazy enough.
22 Jesus replied, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven times."
Today we’re going to continue our series called Family Matters. We just got done talking about communication and how to deal with anger. This will wrap up this whole section on interacting with one another. We’re going to answer Peter’s Question:
(1) How much We are to Forgive
(2) How We go about Forgiving People Who have Hurt Us
Ready? Let’s pray to God and ask his blessing:
Strengthen us O Lord by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see. Open our ears to hear what you want us to hear. Open our hearts to believe what you want us to believe. Amen.
I. How Much Are We to Forgive
To teach his disciples about how much they ought to forgive, he told this story.
There was a King. Since he was king, the modern equivalent might be a C.E.O. (Think Shark on Shark Tank). He had many servants. He had many cooks. He had many massage therapists. He had lots of people who did whatever he said.
He had a gigantic place. A mansion to rival the Biltmore. He wore a Gucci robe. He had a chair decked out with the softest plush seat and the most beautiful diamond studs. He had the latest iPhone update – the one that didn’t even hit stores yet. He had his own drone, a piece of the original Millennium Falcon, and he had Hulu without the commercial interruptions.
He was rich.
Because he was rich he often had helped out his servants. He would loan them some money. He would get some income. They would use it to start their own business. Others would use it to buy a car. He had become a rival to Visa and Mastercard.
On this day he was going to settle his accounts. Servant after servant came in and made payments on what they owed him.
One servant came in who owed the King 10,000 bags of Gold or about a million dollars.
But all he had to offer the king? A crumpled up IOU.
“Seize him!” the CEO told his guards. And rightly so. The man had basically stolen millions of dollars from him. He wasn’t ever going to pay him back. He had frauded him out of his possessions. He had broken the seventh commandment – “You shall not steal.” He was worthy of punishment. The law was on his side.
And the servant knew it. “Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything." "I’ll work 100 hours a week. I’ll ransack my closet and sell things on eBay. I’ll take surveys online for an extra dollar. Please don’t send me to jail. Please don’t rip me from my family. Please don’t punish them for my failure. Please …have mercy.”
The C.E.O. looked down at the servant. He saw his tears. He saw his distress. He saw his sadness.
And he had compassion. He cancelled the debt and let him go.
Isn’t that amazing? One million dollar debt – cancelled. Not lessened to a hundred thousand. Not changed to a work equivalent. Not worked out through property seizure.
And this isn’t just a nice puff piece that makes it way onto the last few minutes of the nightly news. REMEMBER: Jesus told this story in order to teach his disciples about forgiveness. There is a deeper spiritual meaning to this story.
The king represents God. God is way richer than the king or our modern equivalent C.E.O. Since we serve God, we are his servants.
We owe God a lot. Millions really.
Imagine for a moment that one sin was equal to $1. Every time you sinned, you had to pay God $1. Now let’s imagine that you had 1 sin per minute. (Yes, there may be moments where there are less sins – while you are sleeping. But there are others minutes where you get real mad and sin about 20 times in your thoughts in the span of 15 seconds.) 1 sin per minute at $1 per sin is $60 for an hour of sinning.
Now there are 24 hours in a day. That’s $1440 per day. 365 days in a year? That’s $525,600 per year. (Do you make that much?) The average age in this congregation is 40. That’s $21,024,000 owed to God as the average debt for people at Gethsemane.
I’m not positive, but I imagine we wouldn’t even be able to gather enough funding to pay for one of us.
But here’s the deal. The price of sin isn’t a dollar. It’s a death. One death for every sin. Romans 6:13 says, “the wages of sin is death.”
That’s an impossible price! Even if we died one death that would still only pay for one sin. At millions of sins over a lifetime that’s millions of deaths!
Or eternal death.
There’s only one who had the spiritual funding to pay for our millions of sin.
There’s only one who has the spiritual funding to pay your bill completely.
There is only One who had the divine value in his blood necessary to pay for our eternal debt.
His blood had divine value and infinite amount of funding. When he died on the cross, he paid for your first sin, your second sin, your third sin and so on and so on…until every last sin was paid for.
And your debt? Was cancelled. Millions of millions of sins cancelled – on the cross.
Millions and millions of deaths owed? Paid for with his death.
You want proof? He lives! That doesn’t happen if it didn’t work. He’d still be working on paying the next sin.
The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life. Consider the glorious truth contained in those words. You owed a debt you could not pay; Jesus paid a debt He did not owe. God forgave you all of your sins.
II. How We are to Forgive
That feels pretty awesome doesn’t it? It almost makes you want to go celebrate. Go get some streamers; go grab some of those squeaky noise makers; turn on the Pandora party station and jam!
But that’s not what the servant in our story did.
Instead, he found his friends. Maybe at the local pub. The place where all the other servants hung out. He had a celebratory drink, but then in the corner of his eye he saw a fellow servant (Let’s call him Bob.) Bob owed him some money – 100 silver coins. He had lent Bob the money years ago, but Bob still hadn’t paid him back. It wasn’t a small amount; it was a few months wages. But it wasn’t unpayable either.
The servant took a glug of his beer. He slammed it to the table. He walked across the room and grabbed Bob by the throat. “Pay back what you owe me!” he demanded.
His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, “Be patient with me, and I will pay it back!”
Sound familiar? Those words had been spoken before. They must have echoed in the ears of the servant –reminding him about how he had been in the same, much – much worse situation hours earlier.
Same situation; same result? Not so much.
The servant refused. He found the local law enforcement by the door. He brought charges against the man for fraud. He had the man arrested. He mocked him as he was thrown into prison. Then, he went on his way home.
But some other servants were at the pub. Some other servants saw the whole thing. Some other servants remembered how he had been boasting about having his debt forgiven by the C.E.O Some others servants couldn’t help but tell the king what had happened.
The next morning, the man made his way into work and found an email saying that he needed to see the King immediately. He packed his things up and whistled on his way to the C.E.O.’s office – they were such good buds now. He probably wanted to be his friends on Facebook.
But when he entered the room and he saw the anger in his boss’s eyes, something told him this wasn’t going to be a pleasant visit.
32 "You wicked servant…I cancelled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?”
The man stood there speechless. There was nothing to say. He had been forgiven an impossibly large amount. He had been unforgiving about a much smaller one.
In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured until he should pay back all he owed. That means he never paid it back. (You don’t make a lot of money for being tortured in jail.)
What do you think? Did the man deserve it? Yes? Sounds good right?
Here’s the turn...Jesus says this, “This –unforgiveness and making you pay the debt that you owe – millions of deaths in hell – is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive you brother or sister from your heart.”
Does it still sound good?
This happens so often in family. There’s not anyone you’re going to sin against more than your family simply because there’s no one you will be in proximity to more than your family. As a result – unforgiveness is a huge temptation. A huge temptation and it’s wrong.
If you are refusing to forgive your wife because she keeps going over budget…
Or refusing to forgive your husband because he keeps losing his temper…
Or refusing to forgive your kid because they keep disobeying…
Or refusing to forgive your brother because he keeps using your dolls as action figures…
Or refusing to forgive your loved one OR an ex-loved one because they did something awful to you…
…You are putting yourself in danger of God doing the same to you.
But pastor, what they did is too repetitive and too awful. You don’t know what it’s like.
You’re right. I don’t. But God does. God does because that sin against you was also a sin against God. He felt it. He suffered for it. He died for it and now he says to you, “Do you really want to be fair? Do you really want God’s family to be about unforgiveness? Do you want to see what it’s like when I do that to you?
Forgive us Lord. Forgive us for our unforgiving hearts.
Thankfully. When Jesus died on the cross, he also died for unforgiveness. It means if you are convicted by God’s Word right now, repent. Look at the cross. See your sins – even your sins of an unforgiving heart – on Jesus.
Listen to God’s Word. “In Jesus you are forgiven. You are forgiven for your unforgiveness.”
III. WHAT NOW?
Zero in on verse 35 again. It says “Forgive your brothers and sisters from the heart.” That’s what God did. He removed the pain and hurt that was in his heart and he made you right with him.
That means it isn’t enough to say, “I forgive you.” It isn’t enough to simply text, “No worries.” It isn’t enough to say “We’re cool,” only to bring it up again and again whenever you want something from your spouse.
That heart needs to let it go. It needs to let it go for you. It needs to let it go for them. It needs to let it go for God.
And yes, I know that wasn’t the point of the song Let It Go from Frozen. Elsa was talking about her magical ice freezing powers. But, I’ll tell you what, forgiveness is freeing. Gone is the tension whenever you hear that person’s name. Gone is the nervousness whenever you are alone with them. Gone is the yelling and the anger.
It’s replaced with God’s love. With God’s heart. With God’s mercy. With God’s compassion.
It’s been an eventful week. Three separate shootings – in Baton Rouge, St. Paul and Dallas -- have captured the attention and the anger of our nation.
There have been protests against police and protests for the police.
Angry words on Facebook; angry videos on YouTube.
Anger at the police. Anger at racism. Anger at the media. Anger at the shooters.
Anger at white people. Anger at black people.
Anger at each other.
Originally this was going to be a series entirely on anger within a family – and I still plan on mentioning it – but the unfortunate events of the past week have left me convinced we need to examine this at a greater level. We need to examine this as a diverse family of God. If we want to continue living, growing, and serving North Raleigh together as a diverse community of believers – we need to discuss how God’s Word wants us to deal with anger – especially when it comes as the result of seemingly racist events.
Today we’re going to do three things:
(1) discuss the root of anger
(2) examine how God dealt with his anger
(3) learn how God wants us to express anger
Ready? Let’s pray to God and ask his blessing on this difficult discussion.
Strengthen us O Lord by the truth; your Word is truth. Remove our anger and hatred from our perceptions, O God. Instead, open our eyes to see what you want us to see. Open our ears to hear what you want us to hear. Open our hearts to believe what you want us to believe. Amen.
I. Getting to the Root of Anger
Our study of anger actually starts in John 2.
John 2 is very interesting. In it, there is yelling and shouting. Some people are waving their hands in desperation. Others are taking cover. The sheep are bleating. The cattle are stampeding. Money is being tossed to the ground; Tables are being flipped in the air. A whip is cracking and keeping all who were trying to stop the mayhem at bay.
It almost kinda sounds like an out of control protest.
But it’s not.
It’s Jesus...sweet, kind, mild mannered, turn the other cheek and let children come to him, Jesus.
(John 2:14-15) In the temple courts, Jesus found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of the cords and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.
It’s one of the most interesting sections in the Bible. At first glance, it appears Jesus was in the wrong. He lost his temper and was seemingly violent.
But…Jesus is without sin. He’s God. Scripture is clear on that. 1 John 3:5 says, “In Jesus, there is no sin.” 2 Cor. 5:21 says, “Jesus… had no sin.’ 1 Peter calls him “a lamb without blemish or defect.”
And if what Jesus did was sinful here, He couldn’t have died for our sins. He would have had to die for his own sins. As it is, he rose from the dead proving that he didn’t sin – not any other time in his life – and not here either.
Reexamine the situation. The people at the temple had been using the temple to worship God. Right outside the doors of church – in the outer hallway – were all kinds of sellers and money changers (like a flea market in church). People were bartering and making sales. Customers were shouting at poor prices. Sellers were driving up the market. Greed and deception were replacing worship and meditation. These sellers were distracting people from the truth of Scripture. They were leading them from faith to unbelief.
They were distracting people to hell.
Can you understand why Jesus’ was angry? (Not wanting people in hell sounds like a righteous reason to me.)
Follow the logic then:
Jesus was angry.
Jesus was sinless.
Anger isn’t sinful.
So: Anger isn’t sinful; therefore I can be as angry as I want and it isn’t sinful.
Is that true? Can our anger be totally, completely righteous -
With God? Absolutely.
With humans? Probably not.
Ephesians 4:22 says this, “Put off your old self which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires.” That’s an interesting phrase. Deceitful – as in – seems good, but isn’t. As in, seems righteous, but really isn’t.
I think that if ever there was a righteous reason to be angry, people not attending church to worship God seems like a perfect example of righteous anger. As a pastor – that’s a very common feeling. At about 3 in the afternoon as I’m going through attendance, I get angry that there weren’t more people there and I feel really righteous in that anger. I think, "Aren't I awesome God?"
But can I let you in on a secret? The devil loves to deceive pastors. He loves to deceive me. Too often my righteous anger isn’t, “because I’m concerned for spiritual welfare,” or “because God’s Word is at the bottom of your list, “ but, “God, I’m angry that these guys are making me look bad! You’re making me feel like an inadequate pastor. You’re making me feel unimportant.”
In other words – my anger looks righteous (I can even convince myself that it is) but that’s deceptive. In reality, my anger is selfish. Tainted by sin.
HERE’S THE TRUTH: Even the “righteous” anger of sinful humans is tainted by sin. It has to be.
Oranges produces orange juice. Apples produce apple juice. Avocados produces avocados juice.
Sinful humans produces sinful ways of looking at things.
This means – at the outset of your anger – whatever it is – even for the most righteous reasons – it will be tainted.
So. Stop and think about your anger. Is it righteous?
I’m angry that you didn’t take out the garbage – not because you are shirking responsibility, but because I’m going to have to get off of the couch and do it!
I’m angry that you spent all of our money in the budget, not because it’s bad stewardship of what God has given us, but because that’s not how I wanted to spend it.
I’m angry that my kids are disrespecting me, not because it means they are sinning, but because it makes me feel bad about my parenting!
I’m angry at the death of the police officers because I’m white. I don’t really have the same sadness over the death of the Mr. Sterling because “he probably deserved it.”
I’m angry at the death of those black men because I’m black; but I’m not angry at the loss of the policemen – because they’re jerks and they deserve it!
I’m angry at my friends who are insinuating that it’s hard to be a black person in America – not because it’s not true, but because it makes me feel bad as a white guy. (And I don’t like feeling bad.)
I’m angry at my friend who is sharing her anger about her cause, because I don’t think it’s important as my anger at this cause!
And so it goes.
And anger leads to more anger.
And the world is at war.
And the devil wins.
And angers divide his people.
And deceptive angers divides the family of God.
And here’s the thing, when you’re sinfully angry with others, God gets angry with you. Romans 1:8 says, “the Wrath of God is being revealed against all the godlessness and wickedness of people.”
He’s mad when you shout at your spouse, because you are harming your spouse, his child.
He’s mad when you call your brother names, because you are harming your brother, his child.
He’s mad when you tell mom that you “hate her,” because you are harming your mom, his child.
He’s mad when you call a person of a different race derogatory names, because you are harming His children.
He’s mad when you post nasty message on the wall of a friend who disagrees with you because you are harming His child.
He’s mad when you refuse to listen to a brother or sister from another culture tell you some of the struggles they are going through because you are sending a message of “I don’t care,” to someone he cares very much about – His child!
Ultimately, he’s mad at all of these racial anger driven sins, because just like other sins, they separate God from another one of his children...
II. How God Deals with Anger
So…How does God deal with anger against you?
This is a picture of a punching bag. They are these big old bags. Heavy and hard to move with a soft outer padding to absorb any and every attack that hits it. You can hit it as hard as you want and it doesn’t scream. It doesn’t shout. No one gets hurt. It absorbs every last ounce of your anger.
This is what God did with His wrath. He absorbed it. But not with a punching bag. Not with a pillow. Not even with a little sister.
He absorbed his own wrath with himself.
Romans 5:9 says this, “We shall be saved from God’s wrath through Jesus!” Because Jesus took the brunt of God’s wrath. He took a nail in his right hand; and a nail in his left. He took a spear in his side; he took his last breath. Jesus cried out, “My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me? (Mark 15:34) ” as the Triune God splintered Himself from Himself. The Father dumped his wrath against sin on his son and Jesus died.
But He came back to life. He rose because God’s wrath had been fully absorbed in his sacrifice and was no more.
It means that by faith in Jesus, God’s wrath against any racist anger has dissipated.
It means that by faith in Jesus, you will not be punished.
It means that by faith in Jesus, you will not suffer God’s anger against your sins.
You are forgiven. God’s wrath has dissipated. He won’t retaliate or get revenge. In fact, he’s protecting you because you are at peace with him.
III. WHAT NOW?
Take a look at Ephesians 4:24 “You were taught…to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”
Ever been to the beach? If you have, then you know the beach loves to come home with you. It’ll be stuck between your toes, in your ears, and in your shoes. It’ll get in your car, on the floor, and in your seat. Three weeks later you may even find some in your ears. It’s really uncomfortable.
So what is a beach goer to do? Take a shower. Then, put on new clothes! Don’t put on your sandy clothes. That would make the shower worthless. Put on new clothes and remain clean.
Do the same spiritually. God has washed you clean from your angry, sinful past. He removed it from every part of you. From your clenched fists to your gnashing teeth, from your spiteful thoughts to hateful heart, God has washed you clean.
Put on the new self. The selfish, angry way? That’s the sinful way of the past way. God has made you new and he wants you to follow a new way in dealing with anger. Ephesians teaches us about this new self:
(1) In your Anger Don’t Sin
In verse 22 Paul says this, “In your anger, do not sin.” It’s an interesting statement. It means that if you had a 100% pure, completely absolutely righteous in every way reason to be angry (tough as that might be) – you still need to be careful and not sin.
Say your brother upsets you. What are some sinful ways to let out anger against him? Punch him. Call him a name. Break his stuff. Tell them you “hate them.” Refuse to talk to him.
Remember God’s reaction to his anger? He suffered bitterly on the cross to make everything right between you two again. God was angry, but channeled that anger into a loving action.
Do the same. Channel your anger into a loving action. Talk about it. Write a note about it. Consult God’s Word about it. Pray about it. If you are really angry, pray really hard about it until your emotional anger lessens.
The result? There’s not another sin for anyone to get angry at. Emotions fade. That’s a good thing.
(2) Get Rid of Footholds
Ephesians 4:27 says this, “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry and do not give the devil a foothold." Footholds are for climbing; festering anger allows the devil to climb right into your life and destroy your family.
He can do it with the smallest thing. Like a tube of toothpaste. As in, it makes you angry that your spouse leaves the cap off to make it “easier” to get to. It might seem like a minor annoyance at first, but over time…day after day of putting the cap back on – day after day of muttering under your breath…day after day of storing up anger – until the devil climbs up these tiny footholds of minty freshness and BOOM! Anger! Shouting! Destruction!
Don’t let it get that far. Talk about the point of tension as soon as possible.
This is true with your friends of a different race. If you let your anger get the best of you and you can feel the tension between you – you need to talk about it. Invite them out for coffee. Meet them at the gym. Message them on Facebook.
(3) Be Kind and Compassionate
And when you do talk about it? Do so in a Godly manner. Ephesians 4:31-32 says this, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another.”
The natural impulse is to pick up your weapons of anger in order to defend yourself. Be bitter to defend yourself against the bitterness of others. Be filled with rage as a defense mechanism against feeling bad that someone might have a legitimate beef with you.
But God says, put those sharp weapons away. Instead get out kindness – which seems a lot like bringing a pillow to a sword fight.
But remember: That’s how God dealt with anger! Remember? He laid down his wrath. He went to the cross. He absorbed His wrath. He absorbed your sins. Because that’s what kindness and compassion does. It absorbs wrath. It absorbs anger. It absorbs bitterness.
Even when it comes to race.
We need compassion right now. The media says the opposite. It says you should arm yourself with anger and fighting words -- ready to defend yourself. Rage in one hand – malice in the other. Ready for any attack against me and my color/me and my culture.
Put that away. Listen to their fears. Listen to their concerns. Consider – just for a moment – that your brother or sister in Christ – may have very different experiences from you and very real feelings about those experiences. Listen and be compassionate.
When you are listening with kindness and compassion, you’ll notice something:
That terror in the sound of the Alton Sterling’s wife -- it sounds very similar to the raw emotion in the voice of Nina—a wife of a slain Dallas cop.
The fear in the voice of the black man at the protest is very similar to the fear in the voice of the young cop protecting the protest.
The sadness in the voice of your friend is very similar to yours.
And when you realize that -- you’ll also realize that you have the answer -- the same answer that calms your fears -- the same answer that gives you peace - the same answer that settles your anger:
Just a few nights ago, the youth group from New Ulm was at our house with Pirates of the Caribbean on Netflix. I was sitting on the couch mildly watching Johnny Depp swing his sword around Orlando Bloom when I got a text message on my phone. It was from my wife – who was sitting about three people away. A few moments later I got a message from Mr. Steenbock, the youth leader – who was a bit farther away -- on a chair by our dining room table. In fact, throughout the night I got a few Facebook messages --- four email updates --- a comment on Instagram and even an attempted Skype chat.
Wow. We are connected. If you want to get ahold of someone nowadays, you can try Twitter, Facebook, Messenger, Snapchat, Instagram, Text Message, Email, Skype --- and even this crazy, old fashioned thing called a telephone. Have you heard of it?
Yet. In spite of how connected we are, Americans have trouble connecting.
You can misread tone in an email and get real upset at a your spouse who was sending you a lighthearted joke.
You can send an angry emoticon on accident to your child and he will respond with a very real, on purpose, emoji of an angry cat.
You can turn on the CAPS LOCK to get your point across and dampen your relationship with your sibling, because “WHY ARE YOU YELLING?”
The truth is that in spite of the new ways to connect – we still need to approach communication in the same way God commanded us to approach old fashioned, face-to-face conversation.
What is that command? Today we’re going to continue our Family Matters series on Communication by looking at what exactly God’s Word has to communicate to us about communication.
I. The Sinful Truth Behind BAD Communication
Take a look at Luke 6:28-29. These are the words of Jesus himself. He said, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
That’s an awesome amount of love. Notice who it’s for. Do this for your enemies. Enemy means someone who hates you. Someone who’s against you. Someone who treats you really, really poorly. Someone who calls you “jerkface.” Someone who takes your toys away from you. Someone who spends the last of your budgeted money on something that you didn’t want to spend money on. Someone who yells at you, fights with you, and leaves you in tears.
Someone who might be in your family.
Isn’t that a sad truth? Yet it shouldn’t surprise us. After all, we are all sinners. We sin daily. We often sin much against those who are in close proximity.
It’s kinda like a sprinkler. It’s hot out now, so you might set up the sprinkler. But if you are mom or dad and cold, cold water doesn’t sound like something you want to get on your nice “hangout” clothes --- just set up shop outside the vicinity of the sprinklers’ range. Everything in range will get soaked. But you’ll be fine.
Unfortunately, its impossible for families to set up shop outside the radius of our own sin. The fact of the matter is that we will naturally get hit by our families over and over and over again. There’s no one you will sin against more than your own family – simply because you spend the most amount of time with your own family.
So how do you react? Jesus says, “With love. Treat them how you want to be treated.”
But our actions seemed to indicate that we have misread his words.
Our version is something more like this:
"Hold grudges against your enemies, say hateful things about those who hate you, 28 curse those who curse you, complain to your friends about your family who mistreats you. 29 If your brothers slaps you on one cheek, slap him back harder. If your sisters takes your coat (without asking first), tell her that she’s a “Brat.” Tell your children who asks you for something to “get a job – this is my money,” but if your wife takes the money that belongs to you, angrily demand it back! 31 Do to others as they have done to you.”
This is exactly what Esau did. Remember him from our Old Testament lesson? He had been looking forward for years to receive a special blessing from his father. He had been looking forward to the “birthright” which allow him special blessings as the first born son. When his father finally told him it was time for the ceremony, he went off into the woods to hunt for a delicious venison meal and spend some sentimental, quality time with his father.
When he came back after waiting in his tree stand, after quivering with excitement for this long awaited moment, after skinning the animal, preparing the meat and dreaming about the success that was due him, he found out that his brother had stolen it. Jacob had dressed up as Esau – taken advantage of his father – and stolen what was rightfully his!
Esau was ticked.
Verse 41 says that Esau held a grudge against Jacob. In fact, he immediately began denouncing his brother and decided the only action he could take wasn’t carefully, calmly expressing his pleasure. Esau didn’t write out a long letter venting his frustrations. He didn’t pray to God for help.
He threatened to murder him. “I’m doing to Jacob what he did to me.”
But that’s wrong. That is not how God wants us to communicate. Godly communication isn't selfish.
Godly communication is selfless.
II. Godly Communication
Look at Luke 6 again. It says, “Love your enemies.” Do you realize who is saying that? It’s Jesus Christ. He absolutely had enemies. The religious leaders of his day were so angry with him for calling them sinners and so jealous of him for all of the crowd following him that they planned on killing him. They arrested him. They threw him in prison. They told lies about him. They spoke badly about him. They convicted him of false wrong doing. They shouted – “Crucify him – Nail his body, hand and foot, to this big old piece of wood and let him hang there until he dies!” They ridiculed and mocked him – “You say that you’re the Son of God! I don’t know any Son of God that would hang up on a cross and die. You worthless worm – you disgust us!”
And Jesus’ response?
He spoke no ill will.
He didn’t curse them.
He didn’t even call them jerks!
He blessed them with final words of the Gospel. He prayed to the Father for their forgiveness. He turned his other cheek – and his other hand – and his other foot. He let them take his clothes. He gave them his blood and sweat and tears. He did to them, not like they did to him, but completely unlike how they treated him.
That’s God’s love. That’s selfless communication.
In fact, Psalm 103:10 says, “He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities...For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love.” He doesn’t speak as you deserve nor as you have spoken about him. He speaks to you with love.
He could call you sinner – instead he calls you forgiven.
He could call you enemy – instead he calls you friend.
He could call you brat – instead he calls you his child.
He could call you disgusting – instead he calls you righteous.
He could ignore you (just like we’ve done to him) – instead he is attentive to your every prayer.
He could shout at your to get far away from him and never return – instead he promises a home in heaven to which he will bring you when He does return.
This means that if you have been a poor, ungodly communicator in the past -- God has heard your cry for mercy. He sent his Son Jesus that you would be forgiven. By hearing that message and confessing your faith in it -- you are forgiven.
III. WHAT NOW?
Therefore, let’s learn from Jesus. May his love be a motivation and a guide for our communication in our families. A few quick notes from God’s Word:
One spouse says, “You spent $100 at Whole Foods on like, 11 items?”
The other spouse says, “Do you think I want to waste our money? I can’t believe you are so stingy.”
The original spouse says, “I didn’t say you were a money waster. Stop calling me a jerk. ”
The other spouse says, “I didn’t call you jerk. Stop calling me a name caller.”
And the rubber keeps bouncing back and forth, more and more quickly with each non-listening jab.
So try this: worry less about having others listen to you and worry more about how well you are listening to others. Be quiet. Listen. Repeat what they said. Ask questions about what they said. Learn about their fears, emotions, and anxieties, because then, you’ll know how to address them.
That’s exactly what God did. He heard your cry into eternity – “Lord, help me from my sins and my guilt.” God gave you exactly what you needed – a Savior, Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for all of your sins.
(2) Build Up.
Ephesians 4:29 says this, Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building each other up.
Imagine that you bought a bookshelf at Walmart. It came in pieces and needed to be put together. Dad was going along and put in screw after screw after screw to hold it together. How helpful would it be to go behind him with your own screwdriver loosening and taking out every screw that he put in?
It wouldn’t be. That’s destructive.
It’s the same thing with our words. They can easily destroy – a wife’s confidence, a husband’s character, a brother’s good nature, a sister’s self-worth.
Stop destroying and start building. Look for ways this week to build up each member of your family.Go out of your way to tell them that you’re proud of them, to tell them that you think they’re beautiful, to tell them that you are praying for them. If you do that, you’re building. You’re building up and building up and building up with God’s help. There’s no telling how high it’ll go!
(3) Season with Salt
Colossians 4:6 says, “Fill you speech with grace, season it with salt.” Salt is important. It improves the taste of bland casserole. It makes brussel sprouts tolerable. It is the incredible key in making Doritos so awesome.
Grace is like salt. Phrases like “I love you,” “I forgive you” and “thank you” make any kind of message that much sweeter! It’s Politeness 101.
Use these words. Too often we leave that grace salt on the shelf and sprinkle those spicy four letter words into the conversation. Or we grab a pinch of pure insults and drop them in to get our way.
But you don’t need those things. You are God’s child! You are a part of the salt of the earth; let your language reflect it. Sprinkle words of grace into your conversation.
(4) Ask for God’s Help
Scripture talks about how the tongue is THE most powerful weapon of the body. Sticks and stones can break my bones, but names will never hurt me – is not remotely true at all. It can greatly harm someone.
So just like if you are picking up a samurai blade to slice off a piece of cheese, be very careful with what you say – you can easily do much more harm than good. Look at Psalm 103:4 it says, “Set a guard over my mouth; keep watch over my lips.”
We need God’s help. We need his help to muzzle our tongues from destructive talk and seasoning. Communicating our desire for his help will undoubtedly result in him sending his angels to guard our tongue -- and keep it safe from itself.
Can you imagine what it would be like to get stuck in the desert? (I know it's been hot in Raleigh, but at least the humidity means there's plenty of water in each faucet). If you were stuck in the desert, you'd start to fade. Your energy would evaporate. Your nutrients would disappear. All of your energy would be zapped. Even a glass of water would be a welcome sight!
Life can be kind of like a desert. Dealing with day to day stresses, disappointments, and struggles at work. You can be zapped of strength and out of energy. How do you deal?
Proverbs 10:20 says "The tongue of the righteous is a fountain of life."
Wouldn't it be nice if your family was a fountain of life?
A place where you get re-energized?
A spot where the words reinvigorate your soul?
The go-to area to receive the Word of Life itself and strengthen your faith in the LORD?
Be that fountain of life for your family.
Be strengthened by The Fountain of Life Himself.
I was standing in line at Kroger the other day and there it was – right next to the package of Certs and Three Musketeer King Size bars that are about the size of an actual king’s scepter.
Improve your Intimacy Now! -- 5 Rules for Better Sex -- Secrets of the Bedroom: How to Connect with Him Better.
I’m not alone in this, am I? There’s at least one of those assertions on the front of every Cosmopolitan. As if intimacy could be achieved by a quick top ten list or the $3.99 magazine that I was going to use on a bag of Doritos.
Fear not. The truth about intimacy is not found on the grocery store aisle shelf. It’s found on the little shelf in the back of the pew in front of you. (Or on your shelf at home.)
I. True Intimacy isn’t about You
The section of God’s Word that we’re looking at today starts in 1 Corinthians 6. It begins in verse 12 by helping us to understand the attitude of the times. This is kind of the way that Corinthian society viewed sexuality and unfortunately it’s the way that many in the Corinthian church viewed sexuality. In fact, it’s in quotation marks in your Bibles because scholars are pretty well convinced that this was a catchphrase of the 1st century day. If there would have been hashtags back then, there would be all kinds of people hashtagging the first part of verse 12.
“Everything is permissible for me.” #EverythingIsPermissable
The idea is pretty simple. If it’s legal in Corinthian culture, then why not do it? Stop being burdened by moral laws and start doing whatever makes you feel good. What do you think? Does that sound familiar?
But listen to the Bible’s objection:
Everything is permissible for me, but not everything is beneficial. In other words, “Just because it’s legal, doesn’t mean it’s good.”
Just cause it’s legal to sleep with a cactus in bed, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.
Just cause you won’t go to jail for emailing your boss that he’s a no-good-scuzzer-muffin, doesn’t mean you should call him a no-good-scuzzer-muffin.
Just cause you won’t be arrested for drinking the Kool Aid made by your preschoolers with 9 more times the amount of sugar than normal, it does not mean that you should do it!
Just cause doing something sexual with someone you aren’t married to feels good, does not mean it is good.
For your relationship with God.
Look at the next reason that the Bible has for not just doing whatever you want sexually. Paul says, “Everything is permissible to me, but I will not be mastered by anything!”
Thing is: It’s so very easy for sexuality to become your master.
That guy’s no good for me. He beats me. He bad mouths me. He hates that I’m a Christian. But…I really love sleeping with him. So I’ll stay with him.
That was nice looking at porn. Now to spend hours making sure that every bit of it is deleted from the internet history.
I could put my marriage and my job in jeopardy by flirting with this coworker. Oh well. I’ve gotta obey my desires.
That’s the problem. When you’re obeying your own desires, than the only one you’re intimately connected with…is yourself.
Let me say that again. If you are only obeying your own sexual desires, then you are becoming most intimately connected with yourself.
Not with God.
Not with your spouse.
Just yourself and your sin.
One more passage: 16 Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” That’s what we read last week in Genesis 2:24. It’s the blueprint for marriage that husband and wife become one together. That they become so intimately connected that you can’t tell where one starts and the other ends.
What’s it like to become one with sin?
What’s it like to introduce people to porn as your spouse?
What’s it like to run all your decisions through your own sexual addiction?
What’s it like to be so connected with adultery that when you look in the mirror that you don’t see anything else but that?
Lonely. Guilt filled. Far outside the kingdom of God.
II. True Intimacy Starts with God
Kind of like the woman in the Gospel Lesson:
That’s what the men called her. That’s what they were shouting at her. “Adulterous!” “Sinner.” “Death.”
With tears in her eyes, she fell to the ground. A cloud of dust hit the air. It’s what she deserved though. She had sinned. She had broken up someone else’s marriage. Everyone would now. She might be better off dead.
She heart them shouting in the background! “Jesus! Get over here.” “Jesus, join us!” “Jesus, she sinned…won’t you help us condemn her!?!”
Then, it was quiet. She heard whispering, but she didn’t dare look up. She waited. Waited for her impending doom. But it didn’t come. She waited and waited and waited. Nothing.
Then, she felt a gentle voice beckon to her. She looked up. “Woman, has anyone condemned you?”
She looked around. All the angry men were gone. Nowhere to be found. “No. I don’t think so sir.”
Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you.”
If you have been like the woman. If you have let your desire get the best of you. If you have sinned, sexually. Fall at his feet and hear his voice: “Neither do I condemn you.”
And understand this: You were meant for so much more than that. Take a look at 13-14: “The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.”
Do you get that? You were meant for the Lord. You were meant for the divine Creator of heaven and earth. He wanted you to become intimately connected with him. He didn’t want you connected with a momentary high OR the excitement of a glance combined with the guilty aftermath. God wanted you connected with his divinity, with his holiness, with his wisdom, with his incredible, love!
When we have failed to give up our bodies for the Lord, that’s about the time that He gave ups his body for you. In fact, take a look at this truth:
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you? Whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your body.
Have you heard of the Antilla? It’s a 27 story high skyscraper owned by Indian business tycoon Mukesh Ambani. It’s huge. It has a garage with room for 168 cars. The lobby alone has nine elevators. It’s estimated at 1 billion dollars!
That’s nothing compared to what God paid for you. He paid his eternal blood.
Do you get that? It’d be as if you went on Zillow or were searching in the real estate ads and there was your Facebook picture. With a list of all the qualities you have – disgusting sinfulness, awful sexual sins from the past, up in the attic are all kinds of skeletons, and what’s under the carpet? Don’t ask.
And God said. Yes. I’ll have that! I will make an eternal, infinite, everlasting deposit of my holy, precious blood so that I can put my name on the deed and she will be mine forever.
That’s how much God loves you.
It means whatever your past – whatever your struggle with sexuality – whatever your devotion to your own public intimacy – God still paid for you. He paid to free you from that master’s clutches. He owns you and that sin doesn’t.
You are forgiven.
III. WHAT NOW?
The more you understand God's forgiveness, the more confidence you will have in God’s love. You’ll stop worrying about yourself and what you need to feel good about yourself and instead… you will start to give over every aspect of yourself – to your spouse.
(1) Reserve Yourself for Your Spouse.
Take a look at 1 Corinthians 7:2-4:
Since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. 3 The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife.
Focus in on marital duty. What’s that? Are we talking about the Honey-Do-List? Are we talking about doing the budget? Are we talking about cooking meals? Are we talking about refusing to call the plumber, because ‘they cost too much and all I need to do is YouTube it and I’m sure I can figure it out!”
Nope. Marital duty is Paul’s polite term for sexual intimacy. The beautiful, physical, literal expression of two becoming one.
I know. What the Bible is proposing here is the exact opposite of what our world proposes. Because it is so common for sexual intimacy to be all about when I feel like it and when I want it. But God is telling us to be all about your spouse or your future spouse. Isn’t that something? It means you keep your spouse in mind when temptation comes.
I’m sorry. I can’t do that. That will harm my future spouse.
Honey, I’ll stay away from that guy since he makes you uncomfortable.
I will not look at my coworker like that, because I want to reserve that kind of look for my wife.
(2) Become an Expert In Your Spouse
Guys love to be experts in sports. We love to quote batting averages and drop the names of players from over 40 years ago, just to show off. In fact, I remember back in grade school – trying hard to fit in—and spending each day trying to memorize the stats in the Watertown Daily Times just to be an expert in whatever sport was going on at that time.
What if we put the same effort into learning about our spouse? What if we learned about their likes and dislikes? What if we asked them about their favorite color, favorite ice cream flavor and favorite Backstreet Boy? It’s what God has called us to do! To know them and learn them intimately.
But, pastor, what about my needs? Doesn’t God care about them?
Don’t worry about it. Because in the perfect version of this—guess what? The husband is thinking about his wife’s needs. The wife is thinking about her husband's needs. And their needs are both—taken care of—because God is taking care of them through each other.
God’s smart, right?
He’s smart and he loves you. Which is more than just a witty conclusion to this whole sermon. It’s the truth. He loves you more than you. He loves your spouse more than you do. He knows you more than you. He knows your spouse more than you.
He know you’ll be happiest when you’re intimately connected to him and one another.
I don’t know if you saw it in the hallway, but the blueprint for the new school is up. If you haven’t seen it, check it out. It’s looks very cool.
But I’d be lying if I told you it was the first blueprint. There have been quite a few others. This is like draft 12. Walls have been added, windows widened, mini gyms made larger.
Honestly, it probably will change a few more times before all is said and done. Because times changes, thoughts changes, and needs change. Blueprints change.
But what about the family blueprint? For millennia, the family has been focused around marriage.
Should that change?
Today we’re going to examine that very question. In order to do that we’re going to need to take a look at the original blueprint found in God’s Word. Take a look at Genesis 2.
I. Where is the Original Blueprint from?
A long time ago, there was a man. He was a healthy man. He had toned muscles. A solid bone structure. He had a keen amount of self-awareness and an incredible occupation as a gardener.
He was also only one day old.
Hours earlier Adam had been created by God. God had used his hands to pile up some dust. Form together some feet. Carefully shape the abdominals. Pinch out some arms; add a head; place the appendix in the perfect spot and carefully define his eyebrows.
Then, God smiled and breathed. When God breathed, he breathed a breath that only God, the Creator can breathe. He breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.
Suddenly, the clay figurine was alive. Alive and human. He quickly became aware of his surroundings. He noticed the beautiful hanging leaves of the weeping willow. He smelled the beautiful aroma of the daffodils. He saw the gleaming red of cardinals darting from branch to branch. He investigated the little creatures that were crawling beneath a log. He looked up at the giant, glowing ball in the sky and thought, “How wonderful this world was."
It was an incredible, wonderful, big world for him to explore...
God had an idea. He would parade being after being, animal after animal in front of the man. The man would give the animals names and, if he found one of special importance, he would select that being as his partner in this world.
The man agreed and suddenly the very first parade in the history of the world was in action. (Only without the giant SpongeBob balloon). In walked alligators and aardvarks, zebra and wombats. Adam looked at swarms of bees, packs of piranha’s and a pride of lions. He rode on the horse, threw a ball for the dog, and avoided the house cat.
The man gave them all names. Sea horse for the horse that lived in the sea, flying squirrel for the squirrel that flew, and hippopotamus – for that big old creature that kind of looked like it “potamus”sed when it walked.
But, of all the animals that he saw that day and all the names that he came up with, there was one name that the man never used:
The Creator knew this. He had known the whole time. Now the man knew too. He was missing the perfect partner. A being to challenge him. A being to intelligently talk with him. A being to share the adventure of life with him.
So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then, the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man. (Genesis 2:21-22)
God brought the woman to the man. The grand finale. As Adam woke up from the divine dose of anesthesia, he blinked.
What was that beautiful creature in front of him? Her eyes were more beautiful than the flowers. Her smile radiated more beautifully than that giant orange orb thingy.
The man spoke, the very first love poem ever spoken:
“This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, for she was taken out of man.” (Genesis 2:23) Look at the end of this love story. “For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and the two will become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24)
Marriage. It’s the original blueprint.
But you might be thinking: “Pastor, c’mon. This is a myth. This isn’t real. It’s a made up story like Dr. Seuss or something.”
Look at what Jesus thought about this. “Haven’t you read, that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and the two will become one flesh.’” (Matthew 19:4-5)
Does that sound like he treated it as a myth to you?
In fact, he’s using that verse of the Old Testament – that verse from Genesis 2:24 – to argue with the religious leaders of his time what God’s original design for marriage is.
And if you are thinking, “But why should I trust Jesus?” Allow me to give you his credentials. He knew how to bend the elements and walk on water. He knew how to control the weather and stop storms. He knew how to reduplicate matter at an alarming rate by feeding over 5,000 people with 5 loaves of bread and two fish. He knew how to cure the deadliest of diseases simply by speaking. He knew how to cure the most handicapping of paralyses simply by touching. He cured death when no one else ever has. He promised his disciples that he would die and come back to life…and he did.
I know many of you trust him for salvation. Do you trust him for the marriage blueprint?
Because if Jesus is right, then marriage is not just some evolved social contract that slowly came into being over time. Nope.
Marriage was invented by God.
That’s important to remember. Because Americans bristle at the sound of marriage.
It’s the Ball and Chain.
It’s a prison.
It’s signing your death certificate.
But...that can’t be true. Not if God invented it. Because we’re talking about God here. Not just God – but the name used to define God here is very specific. It’s YAHWEH. That’s important, because it’s the name of the covenant God. It’s the name of the God who promised to send a Savior. It’s the God who kept his promise and sent a Savior. It’s the name of the God who loved his beings so much that he would never, ever give them anything bad.
A while back the preschoolers were in charge of drawing a picture of a house. Let me tell you, as nice as those pictures were, if you followed those blueprints – the house would be a disasters. Windows as big as each room. A room made of squiggles. No door to be found anyway. Sitting on top of what appeared to be a jagged cliff.
God’s not a preschooler. His marriage blueprint comes form a loving heart and an all knowing mind.
II. Examining the Blueprint
Keep that in mind. Let’s look at that blueprint. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and the two will become one flesh.”
Now if you have been paying attention to life within the last couples hundred years, you’d notice that society has kind of reinvented that. They’ve kind of written that statement. In a three different ways.
This is the easiest one. God said that marriage is for “a man and his wife.” How many people is that? Simple math says two. One man and one wife.
Take Sister Wives. Have you ever seen it? It’s a reality show all about the Browns – Kody, the husband, and Meri, Janelle, Christine, and Robyn. His four wives. Guess what? It doesn’t always go well. There’s a lot of jealousy between wives. They all vie for his attention and fight for time with him. Go figure, huh!?! Julianna thinks it’s hard enough to get my attention when a Packer game is on.
Having more than one spouse or polygamy is not godly. It’s simply not a part of God’s blueprint.
And…I don’t think that any of you are struggling with that. You only have one spouse – and most of society agrees there is only two names on the marriage certificate.
But this also means that there should be only two names enjoying the perks of marriage. There’s only one other name that you sleep with, one name that you flirt with, one name you are intimate with. There’s only one other person you should be staring at without clothes on!
Don’t let society fool you. The blueprint needs to remain the same to be a godly marriage. Marriage and all of its perks need to be between two people.
Now that’s the least touchy. Let’s jump to the most touchy.
“A man…will be united to his wife.” Wife is a Hebrew word that refers to the female person in a spousal relationship. It means a woman.
And notice that it stopped there. There aren’t any other caveats. No footnotes. No other options. It doesn’t say “A woman …will be united to her wife,” nor does it say, “a man will be united to his husband.” That’s not a part of God’s original blueprint.
Still the Supreme Court has now ruled that it is legal for same sex couples to get married in America. State governments are not allowed to withhold that social contract from them. Fair enough.
But if the government has changed the definition of marriage, does that mean God’s definition has?
In fact, remember that passage from Matthew? Jesus affirmed marriage to be between two different genders. That’s huge! Because he’s the one who rose from the dead. He’s the one who promises us forgiveness of sins. He’s the one who we believe will take us to eternal life.
Shouldn’t we also believe him on marriage?
In light of recent horrible, tragic events in Orlando, please allow a caveat.I am not telling you to shoot people who disagree. I’m not telling you to attack them. I’m not telling you to bomb them, hurt them, harm them, or even call them names. I am not advocating violence in anyway – nor is Jesus.
But I am saying that God hasn’t changed the blueprint.
“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and the two will become one flesh.” It doesn’t specifically state a length of time. But because it doesn’t specifically state a length of time, the implication is that there isn’t set period of time.
Jesus himself affirms this in Matthew. He says, “Two become one flesh. One God has joined together let no one separate.” (Matthew 19:6)
In fact, that’s the very reason the Pharisees were talking to Jesus in the first place. They wanted to know if God was cool with them separating from one another for any and every reason. “Because I’m bored.” “Because it’s not as romantic as it used to be.” “Because I like someone else.” “Because we grew apart.”
Jesus’ answer? No. Unless it’s because of (1) sexual unfaithfulness – which is basically divorce or (2) abandonment – because if the person just gets up and leaves you, it’s kinda hard to stay married to him – unless your marriage has already been physically broken up, then Jesus isn’t cool with divorce.
You might be asking Why?
I went to kindergarten in Minnesota. In kindergarten, we had one hour recesses. I remember spending an hour making a snow fort. It had tunnels. It had windows. It had a kitchen and a video game room. It was good work.
Then, the bell rang. The class bully immediately started trashing it!
I was upset. He destroyed my work.
If you break apart your marriage, God will be upset. You destroyed his work. Unlike me as a kindergartner, God doesn’t do meh work. God’s work is wonderful. You’ll have destroyed his wonderful work.
It'll hurt much more than God. In fact, God isn’t issuing this command to stay married because he wants you to suffer. No way. He is issuing this command because he doesn’t want you to suffer. He wants you remain one flesh – not to rip apart and cause all kinds of spiritual and emotional bleeding.
That's why he put this blueprint into his Word. Because The Word of God endures forever! (1 Peter)
And thank God it does.
Because we’re human. We’ve completely messed this up. God gave us a blueprint – he asked us to follow it – we’ve messed it up. No one has a perfect marriage – and because of that – you’ve probably seen the results of messing this up:
Tears. Wall of tension. Kids locking themselves in their room. Trust evaporated.
Is there any help?
Check out Ephesians 5:31-32 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.
How cool is that? Jesus says that he is the groom and you are his bride. A bride he was willing to do anything for in order to keep you married to him.
And I do mean anything. Things like:
Jesus died to make you one with Him – you and Him – completely together in righteousness.
Jesus’ resurrection was your wedding day – the day he took you, his beautifully robed bride to be his forever.
Jesus made that promise to you – intimately – to make his love for you and no one else.
Jesus promises to be with you forever and let nothing get in the way.
It means He forgives you.
Knowing that Jesus has made us his forever and living in His forgiveness for messing up the blueprint…what now? Two things:
But our love is strong.
That’s not love! Love is an action. God is love. Love is following God’s will for marriage. Love is doing what God does and being faith forever.
Instead of discouraging, encourage. Encourage friends to be married. Listen to their struggles; offer Godly advice. Recommend a good book. Pray for them. Give them an anniversary card.
Model a good marriage.
Because we need it. There’s enough Kim Kardashians in this world. Young married couples need good role models to follow. In fact, if you’d be willing to help us out here at Gethsemane – mark it on the connection cards. We’re starting up a new marriage mentors program. If you’ve been married for 10 plus years – write your name down and I’ll get into contact with you to serve as mentors for some younger married couples. They need help in this sin-filled world.
2. Focus on your Own Marriage
This is key. Too many Americans focus on so many other things first. Money. Fame. Their career. Even their kids. Marriage is one of the last things.
In fact, there was a recent study in which over 65% of millennials (I just fit into this category) stated that Marriage is not as important as other things.
Don’t listen to that message. If you are married, your spouse is the number #1 non-God thing that is in your wife. Put it on your To-Do-List. I know fixing the sink, getting little Johnny to karate, and working is important but if “Strengthen my marriage” isn’t on your list, you’re aiming to fail. You’re forgetting the most important thing.
Don’t forget. Because God didn’t forget you. In his marriage to you he put repairing your relationship with Him as number 1. He lived for you. He died for you. He rose for you.
He made you a part of his blueprint. Make him a part of your family blueprint. Amen.