In the early 1990s, there was a SURE deodorant commercial that would start with a man at a sporting event next to a beautiful woman. His arms would be raised in excitement. He smiles at her. She looked impressed. Meanwhile in the background, a low-key beat accompanied a voice which sang: “Sure. Sure. Sure.” Then, the camera would pan past the woman to another guy – also looking to court the woman – raising his arms, but quickly catching a whiff of his underarms and immediately lowering them into a not-as-excited, half-touchdown pose…while the musical refrain changed from a deep “Sure. Sure. Sure.” to a wimpier sounding, “Unsure. Unsure. Unsure.”
The trend would continue for the duration of the 30 second ad.
From the classroom. (Sure hands raised; unsure hands not so much).
To adjusting the overhead light on an airplane (The person who’s sure is able to; the unsure person…just deals with it).
To (my personal favorite) the weather woman who is SURE and certain of a snowy forecast and the weather man who is as UNSURE about his pit stains as he is about the precipitation index.
The point? Using SURE deodorant will keep you SURE that you are STAYING FRESH.
Over the last weeks we have learned a lot about being FRESH in 2019. We talked about getting a FRESH start, out FRESH identity, the personalized FRESHness of baptism, how to have reFRESHing friendships, how to have FRESH speech, what our FRESH purpose is and how to be a part of that purpose and be a breath of FRESH air for the North Raleigh community. Today’s goal is to learn how to be sure that we’re staying FRESH for God’s purposes throughout the entire year. Before we do that, a prayer: Lord, strengthen us by the truth, your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see, our ears to hear what you want us to hear and our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. Feeling Tired…?
The section from God’s Word that we’re going to focus in on today is an Old Testament Lesson from the book of Isaiah. Isaiah was a guy who lived around 740-700 B.C. He served as a prophet. That is – he spoke messages from God that God told him to speak. Usually it was through visions or dreams that God would give him these messages.
The main message of Isaiah had to do with the Assyrian army. For years, God had warned the people of Israel to stop sinning, to stop worshipping false Gods, to worship the True God, to stop abandoning Him and return to Him.
But the people didn’t listen. While Isaiah was still prophesying, God allowed the Assyrian army, a terrible, violent army, to ransack the countryside of Israel. They went along destroying villages, burning houses, and killing any stragglers, destroying everything in the North Kingdom of Israel, from there the army made its way south to the Southern Kingdom of Judah, eventually culminating in a siege of Jerusalem, the capital city.
Have you ever been under siege? The closet I can think is whenever it snows around here. The city shuts down. The streets shutdown. If you live on any kind of side road, the snow plows don’t come, and you are under siege. You can’t go outside. You can’t go to the store. You can’t grab a coffee at Starbucks…you have to (gasp)…make your own coffee!
But it was much worse for the people of Jerusalem.
They couldn’t get outside to the well waters, so they had to ration water that was located in their storage areas. Many were dehydrated.
They couldn’t get any food from the farms, so they had to ration the flour for making bread – maybe one slice once a day. They were lacking nutrients.
They needed to be on constant alert – watching from the watchtowers at the top of the wall – to ensure that the Assyrians weren’t making an attempt at scaling the wall and climbing in. And when they weren’t in charge of visually watching them, they were in the city trembling and worrying that any day the siege could break!
Israel was tired of being under siege.
Because being under siege is exhausting.
But…maybe you already know that.
Maybe you are under siege by bill collectors.
Or under siege by a pile of work.
Or under siege to the demands of raising a child.
Or under siege in a relationship that seems filled with anger and resentment.
Or under siege to depression and anxiety.
That’s not fun.
I’m sorry you’re dealing with that.
When you are under siege – it is easy to blame God.
That’s exactly what the Israelites did, they said: “My way is hidden from the LORD; my cause is disregarded by my God!” (Isaiah 40:27)
Think about that. Their claim was that God couldn’t see them.
As if there was some type of obstruction in God’s sight - and that’s why he can’t see what’s going with me.
Or maybe God can see, but just doesn’t care! Like an old sticky note that He’s tired of looking at – God just crumples up my needs and disregards them into the waste basket.
But Israel wasn’t under siege because God didn’t care about them.
In fact, he had sent Isaiah and about 20 something prophets before Isaiah to delivers constant warnings to the people so that this besiegement would NEVER take place.
The issue wasn’t that God grew tired of caring about Israel.
It was that Israel grew tired of caring about God.
Truth: Spiritual tiredness exists when we tire of caring about God.
When we remove ourselves from his promises of grace…
When we remove ourselves from his love…
When we remove ourselves from doing the things that God says, “Won’t cause you grief and pain and stress!”
We will get spiritually tired.
It’s the most oddball thing. But I’ve seen it again and again…
A terrible thing happens.
Someone is struggling spiritually.
So, what do they do?
They remove themselves from God.
They remove themselves from their only source of strength.
If that’s you, today God says, “Repent.”
He says, “Return to me.”
He says, “Return to me because…”
I. Never. Tire.
II. The One who NEVER Tires
Check out what Isaiah writes next, he says, “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary and his understanding no one can fathom.” (v.28)
I love that beginning.
Don’t you know? Haven’t you heard?
Do I need to teach you a fundament thing about God?
The fundamental thing is that God NEVER gets tired.
And Isaiah gives us three reasons this is true:
1) God is Everlasting
Not to be stuck in 80’s commercials, but do you remember the Energizer bunny rabbit. He was a pink rabbit that had on a cool pair of shades as he drummed across cities, forests, deserts and Antarctic wastelands. The point? The energizer bunny keeps going and going and going and going and going and going and going and…You get the point.
But I remember one time I bought that Energizer battery and I was playing on my Gameboy. And guess what? That battery died!
It stopped going and going and going…
God isn’t like that.
God is everlasting and unending.
He doesn’t get sleepy.
He doesn’t get lethargic.
He doesn’t need to catch his breath.
God has been around from before the beginning of the world.
He will be around after the end of the world.
God is everlasting.
2) God is All-Powerful
Isaiah says, “The LORD…is the Creator of the ends of the earth.” (v.28)
Creating things usually takes energy. For me, I know that if I’m creating something, I get pretty tired. At the end of a long day of creating a birdhouse for our backyard – or even half the bird house – I get tired and want to quit.
He created lofty mountain ranges
He fashioned tens of thousands of tree types.
He crafted this gigantic, burning ball of gas known as the sun.
And then, when he was done creating, he immediately shifted to the work of sustaining the very universe that he just created:
Sending rain on the earth to water the new plants.
Holding earth in its rotation around the sun.
Revolving all the other the planets across our galaxy.
And all of universe sustaining? It’s like lifting up a cotton swab to God.
It’s not tiring.
Because God is all powerful.
That’s important to remember, because sometimes the most tiring kind of tired isn’t a physical kind of tired at all.
It’s a mental kind.
Spending mental energy to figure out the next step in fixing this relationship.
Contemplating the next step in trying to raise a kid.
Stressing over how to fix issues at work.
Mental exhaustion is a real thing for humans. But not for God.
Isaiah writes, “God will not grow tired or weary and his understanding no one can fathom.” (v.28c)
God knows all things.
He knows how to fix whatever issue you’re having.
He knows how to fix the issues that you don’t know you’re having.
He knows how to fix the issues that eventually one day you’ll be having.
He knows how to fix all of your issues.
And all of my issues.
And all of the issues of every person sitting here today.
And it does not stress Him out.
He doesn’t tire, because He’s all-knowing.
These three truths – everlasting, all-powerful and all-knowing are proof that nothing can tire God out.
But…maybe you need one more example?
Do you remember what happened to Jesus near the end of his time at earth?
He dealt with immense physical suffering: arrested, beaten, bruised, bloodied, and nailed hand and foot to a cross!
He dealt with intense emotional suffering, convicted by his own people, betrayed by one disciple, denied by another, abandoned by the rest.
And that was nothing compared to the massive spiritual suffering: of the world’s guilt, shame and sin.
Eventually, his body gave out.
Don’t think that God stopped working.
Because, while his body died, God, as God, was holding the entire world together.
And God, as human, was simply biding his time.
Three days later…
Jesus came back to life!
If death can’t stop Jesus, nothing will.
He’s not too tired to care for you.
He’s not too tired to keep you safe.
He’s not too tired to protect your family.
He’s not too tired to rebuild your relationship
He’s not too tired to strengthen your faith.
He’s not too tired to guide your kids.
He’s not too tired to defeat addiction.
He’s not too tired to remove guilt.
He’s not too tired to defeat death.
God doesn’t get tired.
III. The Source of your reFRESHment
And God doesn’t keep his strength to himself. Look at his promise in verse 29. “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.”
Notice it doesn’t say that he makes us earn this gift of strength by doing some kind of spiritual heavy lifting.
Or gives until he can’t give anymore.
And gives some more.
This is different from the way it works with humans.
Because even the best of humans gets tired.
Even the best of humans runs out of energy.
Even the best of humans has to stop giving of themselves.
It’s like a 2 Liter Bottle of Coca-Cola. If I walk around and pour people a glass of Coca-Cola and all day long I pour people a glass of Coca-Cola with my 2 liter bottle, but I never stop to refill my bottle of Coca-Cola…eventually I run out.
But God’s different.
He’s got more than 2 liters of strength and grace and mercy.
He’s got a gushing water fall’s amount.
A never ending, ever flowing fountain of power, grace and mercy.
That’s really important.
Because take a look at something Jesus said: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
Do you hear him?
Do you hear your Savior’s voice?
He’s calling. And he says:
“Take a break from ‘worrying that you won’t be able to do it.’”
“Because I got this.”
“Take a break from the anxiety of ‘I don’t have enough.’”
“Take a break from ‘the stress of guilt, sin, and shame.’”
“You are forgiven.”
IV. What Now?
1. Practice a Spiritual Sabbath
Do you know about the Sabbath?
In the Old Testament, God commanded the Israelites to keep something called “the Sabbath.” In fact, that’s the third commandment: “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.” What happened on that Sabbath day was that the Israelites rested. They didn’t go to work. They didn’t do a business trip. They stayed at home and rested.
Over time, the religious leaders developed some rules to ensure that people were really resting.
It was illegal to do work at work.
It was illegal to do work at home.
You couldn’t turn off the lamp because that would be work.
You couldn’t sweep up that piles of dirt, because that would be work.
In fact, you were only allowed to take a couple thousand steps before stepping would be work, too.
All these laws meant to bring rest led the whole Sabbath experience not being very restful.
I just husked the corn for supper…was that work?
Don’t tell the rabbi. I think I went over by about 76 steps.
I’m sorry God! On this day of rest, I lifted the salt shaker and have added more sin to my spirit!
When Jesus came along, he corrected the people.
He said that people weren’t made to keep the Sabbath, but the Sabbath was made for people.
The Sabbath was to be a spiritual rest.
A time for them to take a break from the stress of everyday life and focus in on God.
To hear his voice.
To be uplifted by his promises.
To find rest in God.
Friends, do the same.
That’s what we’re doing here today. We are here to take a break from the everyday and focus in on God.
But don’t let that be it.
Take a 5-minute Sabbath in the morning before you begin your day by listening to your Bible app.
Take a 5-minute Sabbath at noon as you read a devotion.
Take a 5-minute Sabbath at night as you say your prayers.
Spend time each week – each day with God. When you do so, he will renew your spiritual strength.
2. Practice a Physical Sabbath
Because even though the main point of the Sabbath wasn’t physical rest, it was an ancillary benefit.
The Bible is clear – physical rest is important.
Jesus, as a human, took rest breaks.
We probably don’t need anymore proof than that.
In fact, being physically well-rested helps you spiritually.
You don’t feel as much like being a jerk.
You don’t feel too tired to care for others.
You don’t feel too sleepy to say nice things to your coworkers in the morning.
As a result, you don’t have to deal with as much guilt and shame that zaps you of spiritual strength.
Here’s the point: Physical rest is a good thing.
And even though we live in a ‘go, go, go’ culture – today, God gives us encouragement to slow down.
Have you ever seen an eagle in flight? Compared to most birds, they are pretty majestic. Cause most birds, take a sparrow, flap their wings like crazy. They flap and flap and flap and use up all kinds of energy just to keep themselves up.
The eagle? Not so much.
He opens up his majestic wings, he pushes off of whatever ledge he is sitting on…and he soars.
He trusts the wind to hold himself up and as a result, he soars.
Isaiah writes this, “Those who hope in the Lord will soar on wings like eagles.” (v.31)
Too often we hope in ourselves.
And we’re like a tiny sparrow – flapping and flopping and panicking and trying to keep ourselves up.
Instead, our encouragement today is to be an eagle. To open our wings. To trust God. To soar.
God will keep you up. He doesn’t tire.
Friends, may God keep us refreshed and enable you to soar! Amen.
It was a run of the mill pastoring day.
I woke up.
Drank some coffee and kissed my wife.
I got to church.
Drank some coffee.
Talked to more parents.
And had a good conversation about Jesus.
About 3 hours into the day, I went into the 4-year-old room.
I saw some friends playing with the Duplo’s and thought I would join them in constructing a gigantic Duplo station wagon.
As I started putting them together, I turned to the friend next to me and said, “What do you think of my car?”
The friend scrunched his face up.
I said, “You don’t like it? I thought it was pretty cool.”
Again – he turned his face away from me.
I said, “I’m sorry you don’t like it. What should I change?”
And my friend said, “It’s not your car….”
“It’s your stinky breath.”
Over the few weeks we have been in our sermon series called FRESH and talking about how to FRESHEN up our own lives. We discussed our FRESH identity, our FRESH start, our personalized FRESHNESS in baptism, we talked about our FRESH purpose and our FRESHNESS of speech.
But…how do you bring FRESHNESS to those who aren’t you?
How do you tell someone else about their need for FRESHNESS?
How do you tell someone that their spiritual life – is kinda like coffee breath – it stinks?
Today’s lesson is called a Breath of Fresh Air in the Heart of North Raleigh. Our goal is to consider how we can bring the FRESHNESS that Jesus provides to our family, friends and community. Before we do that, a prayer: Lord, strengthen us by the truth, your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see, our ears to hear what you want us to hear and our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. God’s Biggest Air Freshener
The section of God’s Word that we’ll study this morning comes from 2 Corinthians 2. It’s a letter written by a pastor named Paul to a church in Corinth. Important to note – the Corinthian community was a community that wreaked of ungodliness.
Because it was a market city that was all about the major dollar, it had issues with greed, fraud, and theft.
Because it was a bustling with many kinds of people it also had issues with hatred, racism, and bigotry.
Because it was influenced by fertility idols, it also had issues with sexual immorality, lust, and rape.
Because it was far apart from the true God, it had issues with unbelief, guilt, and shame.
Sound like any countries you know?
Sound like any communities?
And so, Paul writes to the believers in Corinth and explains to them how God wants them to FRESHen up the place. He starts by explaining how he has been freshening up places in his travels:
Now when I went to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ and found that the Lord had opened a door for me, I still had no peace of mind,because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I said goodbye to them and went on to Macedonia. (v.12-13)
This is an interesting start to this section. Paul wanted to go to a place called Troas. He says, “God opened a door” for him. Whether that means that someone offered him a ride on his carriage or let him borrow a horse, I don’t know. But Paul goes. He travels hundreds of miles to get to Troas because he really hoped to find Titus, a ministry partner of his, at work in Troas. But when he got to Troas – Titus wasn’t around. He had gone the entire trip just to find the guy and he wasn’t there.
Some might call that trip worthless.
Look at what he writes:
But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. (v.14)
Triumphal Procession. In the early 1st century, that was pretty common. As countries battled for control of other countries, they would celebrate a war victory with a parade! They’d parade the troops. They’d parade the prized stallions. They’d have trumpeters trumpeting the trumpets, drummers drumming the drums and trombonists tromboning the trombones.
But the big part of the parade was the spoils:
Soldiers would wheel in carts filled with gold – spoils of war.
Soldiers would march with foreign stallions – spoils of war.
Solders would march with captivities, tied together, marching in front of them – spoils of war.
Jesus says that we are his victory spoils.
He defeated sin.
He defeated guilt.
He defeated shame.
He defeated Satan himself as he bore our sins on that cross.
And now – we are HIS victory spoils
And He is parading us to showcase HIS Victory.
To put it another way – because we are a part of Christ’s victory parade – we are also the aroma of Christ.
Another common sight (or rather smell) among 1st century victory parades would be incense burners! As people cheered and music played, incense bearers would twirl incense carrying sticks and let the smell of victory permeate the air. In addition, women would dance and throw flower petals into the air in order to welcome their conquering heroes. Again – the sweet aroma of victory would linger.
A modern version of this might not be as pleasant. It’d probably have the smell of gasoline from all the cars that are carrying the local Parks and Rec float, the smell of little pieces of unwrapped candy that float dwellers would throw towards the crowd – and maybe the smell of the horses as they walk around.
Still – regardless – the smells are associated with a parade. They are associated with a celebration!
Believers are the aroma of Christ.
An aroma of forgiveness, with a hint of joy, and the lasting airs of grace.
God wants us to share that forgiveness, that joy, and that grace with others!
That was Paul’s excitement when he talked about his travels. Even though the goal was to go see Titus…and he didn’t get to see Titus, but that didn’t mean his trip was worthless.
Because everywhere he went, he was paraded as Christ’s victory spoils.
As he walked on the path to Troas, he stopped to provide for the needs of an old beggar with a few coins – while telling him about how Jesus took care of his own need of forgiveness.
As he stopped by a local watering hole and waited behind a woman with 4 screaming children, he got their attention and told stories about Jesus’ miraculous power over death – even his own!
When he made it to Troas and grabbed a bite to eat at the local restaurant, he talked with the waiter about how Jesus is the bread of life and how he had filled him spiritually.
When he got to Troas and saw that Titus wasn’t there, he didn’t just turn and leave – he took the opportunity to parade himself as victory spoils for Christ – to tell about how Jesus had mercifully saved him…
…and could save others too.
You are also the aroma of Christ.
Let that aroma permeate the air wherever you go.
Share the message of Jesus.
Share the joy of salvation!
II. One Man’s Potpourri
But…I need you to be aware of one thing as you go to share this message.
Not everyone is going to like it.
It’s like potpourri. Do you know what potpourri is? (It’s a pot filled with pourri…I think). Really, it’s a bag filled with supposedly good smelling things. Usually it’s things like pine twigs, pieces of bark infused with essential oils and cinnamon sticks. You put it in a bowl and it gives a sweet smell to the house.
Or at least…it gives off a smell.
I remember one time someone was so excited to have me smell their potpourri. I’m pretty sure that potpourri must have been called: “Mowing the Lawn while Sweating.” It wasn’t pleasant.
I didn’t love it.
But that person did.
What’s pleasant to some people’s nostrils is repugnant to others.
It’s the same with the aroma of Christ. Look at what Paul writes: We are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. (v.15-16)
Maybe you’ve noticed that.
Maybe you’ve noticed that sometimes the person you share a Bible passage with on Facebook puts a big THUMBS UP by it and others put the ANGRY face.
Maybe you’ve noticed that some people appreciate your holiday card with a religious passage; others tell you to stop or they’ll report you to HR.
Maybe you’ve noticed that some people are thankful when you share the Gospel with them; others tell you to “keep that religious mumbo jumbo to yourself.”
Here’s the reality:
The message of Jesus smells…great to BELIEVERS, but awful to REJECTERS.
For instance, think about the message of John 3:16.
“God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
To the rejecter, it’s the smell of death:
“I’m a sinner? You’re telling me that I need a Savior? You’re telling me that I’m not good enough? You’re telling me that I need God’s help? You’re telling me that without Jesus I won’t be saved!?!”
Smells like a rat.
Get that garbage away from me.
But to the believer, it’s a smell of life:
“I have a Savior? His name is Jesus/ He died for all of my sins? He has completed forgiven me, completely rid me of guilt and absolutely guaranteed that I will have life?!?
I want to soak it in.
Tell me more…
The message of Jesus smells great to WHO BELIEVE, but awful to WHO REJECT.
Expect different reactions.
III. Another Reason to Be a Good Smell…
But…that doesn’t mean you should stop sharing Jesus.
When someone is mean about it…
When someone doesn’t listen…
When someone makes you feel uncomfortable just because you were trying to invite them to church…
That doesn’t mean you should stop being the aroma of Christ.
Our Old Testament lesson today was a unique lesson. Often, we read poetry or narratives. It isn’t often that we read a recipe for ceremonial incense:
Pure frankincense – all in equal amounts.
Then grind it up into a powder and place it in the altar area.
Use it to burn incense to the Lord.
But did you know this recipe comes with a warning?
Take a look:
Whoever makes incense like it to enjoy its fragrance must be cut off from their people. (Leviticus 30:38)
Do you get it?
This incense was for God.
This aroma was for God.
And it’s the same with you and me.
The aroma of Christ that permeates from our lives it isn’t for OUR SAKE, but for GOD’s!
We don’t share the message of Jesus in order to feel good about ourselves.
We don’t stop sharing it when people reject it.
We don’t do the things we do at Gethsemane to feel good about ourselves, to glorify our own desires, to impress others with what we do at church or in anyway to give glory to us!
We share Jesus for God’s sake.
And that’s important.
Because when we start sharing Jesus for our own glory, it can easily become some strange version of work righteousness. It can become a thing you do IN ORDER To make God like you.
It can become something that you do in order to earn God’s approval.
In order to cover up the stench of your sins.
And I get it. The stench of our sins is great.
There are sins from years ago that still have a stench.
There are day to day sins that make the day stink.
There can be relationship sins that just make the whole day smell awful.
And try as we might, we can’t cover it up!
And He didn’t use a bottle of perfume.
He didn’t burn a stick of incense.
He didn’t cover us in Glade Plugins.
He sacrificed himself to cover up the stench of our sins.
And I’ll tell you what – his blood was so powerful – that God doesn’t even smell a hint of your sins anymore.
Like an incredible, divine, righteous incense, God doesn’t smell even a hint of your sins.
Only the pleasing aroma of Christ’s sacrifice!
IV. What Now?
And now? He wants to cover up your neighbor’s sins by bring the message of his forgiveness to them through you.
1) Be Fragrant…EVERYWHERE!
Paul’s language says, “spread the aroma of the knowledge of Jesus…EVERYWHERE.” (v.14)
That means we aren’t just being fragrant here in worship.
It’s not a one hour a week aroma that happens in this particular building.
Be fragrant with Jesus’ love EVERYWHERE.
At the Valentine’s Dinner.
At the President’s Day Luncheon.
At Sola Coffee café!
2) Be Fragrant…ALWAYS!
God doesn’t want you to be one of those timed air fresheners – that goes off once a week and freshens things for a few minutes, but then quickly fades into general bathroom funkiness.
God wants you to be a long-lasting air fresheners. One of the ones that is always letting off a beautiful aroma.
Always changing the air around them.
Always connecting others to Christ.
Let me tell you – you have opportunity to do so later today.
You’ll have interactions.
Make use of those interactions.
Share the love of Jesus.
3) Combine Odors
Have you ever been to a football locker before? It’s pretty stinky. Practice gear. Practice socks. Practice pads. Washed once a week. Steeped in sweat, grass stains, blood, and general YUCK!
If you want to make a football locker room smell good, you need more than just one of those little Christmas Tree air fresheners.
You’ll need hundreds.
To make our world smell better – it’s gonna take more than just you.
It’s going to take all of us.
To make this community of North Raleigh fragrant with the message of Jesus…
It’s going to take all of us.
This is why that kind of language is used in Paul’s letter. He says: We…are the pleasing aroma. We...are an aroma that brings life…God uses US to spread the aroma.
This is a together thing.
This is a YOU thing.
This is a ME thing.
This is an ALL OF US TOGETHER thing.
That means you are a part of something BIG.
You are a part of a new wave in the Raleigh community.
We have something amazing to offer.
We have something incredible to offer.
We’ve said it like this Plant the Message of Jesus in the Hearts of North Raleigh.
A brief, Biblical paraphrase of that is to Bring a Breath of Fresh Air to the Fragrance of North Raleigh!
And it’s a fresh air – that saves eternal lives. Amen.
Last week we talked about our FRESH purpose and that is to be a part of God’s mission to SAVE ALL PEOPLE by Planting the Message of Jesus in the Hearts of North Raleigh. It’s an incredible purpose. It’s a BIG purpose and it’s a privilege to be a part of this purpose.
Maybe you left last week thinking – What is the biggest thing that I can do to help accomplish this goal?
I could use my biceps! And help tear out old bushes, carry Bibles during Bible hour and lift children in need of diaper changes at the Preschool.
I could use my head! And start planning Sanctuary updates, outreach opportunities and how to improve our Youth Group.
I could use my money! And fund exterior improvements, advertisements to church events and tuition assistance for the kids.
Today, God’s Word wants you to consider something else.
A part of the body that’s not as BIG as your biceps.
Nor as SMART as your brain.
Nor as VALUED as your money.
Yet, this body part has the ability to be MOST VALUABLE when it comes to sharing the kingdom of God.
Today our topic is SPEECH. Our goal is to consider the great power of our tongues and how we might can use it on our mission to Plant the Message of Jesus in the hearts of North Raleigh. Before we do that, a prayer: Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see; our ears to hear what you want us to hear and our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. The Power of the Tongue
The section of God’s Word that we’ll study this morning comes from James 3. The book of James is a letter written by an important disciple in the early church called James. James was the leader in the church in Jerusalem. A very large church. The mother church, if you will of all the other churches. It’s where the message of Jesus started and spread to other parts of Asia Minor, to Europe…even to Raleigh, NC.
In Chapter 3, James is writes to Christians everywhere about how they use their tongues. Take a look:
When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. (v.3-5a)
Anyone ever ridden a horse before? They are large animals. They are powerful animals. They have the ability to draw the Wells Fargo Wagon or the Budweiser beer carriage. Horses are the reason that we compare the power of a motor vehicle’s engine as horse power.
And if you try to move a horse with your hands, just by pushing them around? It ain’t gonna work. Instead, they developed something called a bit. It’s a small piece of technology (a rope) that fits into their mouth and attached to more rope. By pulling that rope (either on horseback or walking along the side) you can easily control which way you want the large powerful horse to go!
Gigantic power, tiny device.
Or how about a large ship? Think of a cruise ship. It’s filled with thousands of people. It has hundreds of pounds of margarita mix and suntan lotion. It has little to no problem carrying an entire set of conga line dancers in the little space in its cabin. It’s large. It’s powerful. If you are a small canoe boat in the way of a cruise ship, you better move.
But…in the back of the ship, right near the water, is a rudder. A small little part in comparison to the rest of the ship. This little rudder directs the wave flow and turns the gigantic ship.
Gigantic power; tiny device.
The Tongue is the exact same. It isn’t big. In comparison to the rest of the body, it’s rather small. Yet. The tongue wields great power.
It has the power to set your life’s course: “Honey, will you marry me?”
It has the power to get your career on track: “Yes. I do accept your offer and I will be regional manager of sales!”
It has the power to save your life: “Yes, I will go through with the chemo treatment.”
Though the tongue is small, its power is great.
Think about it.
George Washington used his tongue to win a revolution.
Abraham Lincoln used his tongue to end slavery.
Martin Luther King Jr. used his tongue to bring about great strides in equality.
And people are still using their tongues to accomplish all kinds of things – to this day.
II. Spitting Fire (Bad Uses of the Tongue)
But…because the tongue has such a great ability to accomplish powerful things…
It becomes imperative that we use them to accomplish positive, powerful things.
That is the very next thing that James writes:
Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire. (v.5b-6)
Do you remember Smokey the Bear? He always said, “Only you can prevent forest fires.” That wasn’t his way of saying, “stop using a blow torch to set the forest on fire.” In fact, I’m not sure that any forest fire has ever been started via blow torch. It was his way of saying, “Be sure to truly and completely douse your campfire in water. Because even the smallest ember or spark can set the entire forest on fire.” Think of that…some of the biggest forest fires in California – fires that have made people evacuate their homes – were caused by a simple, tiny flame.
When simple tiny words are used in the wrong way – they can cause just as great of damage. Here’s three things that your tongue can set fire to:
(1) Your Body
Look at the next part of the passage. James write, “The tongue is a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body.” (v.7) How does that work? The tongue leads you into sin which corrupts not only our tongue, but the whole body. ln other words, it is the gateway to sin that is happening right now.
“Why yes! I’ll go ahead and have that 7th shot of Jack Daniels!” And the whole body is corrupted with drunkenness.
“Why yes! I’ll go ahead and speak gossip with you!” And the whole body is corrupted with jealousy.
“Why yes! I think you’re a moron, too!” And the whole body is corrupted with rage and anger.
“Why no! I refuse to forgive you!” And the body remains corrupted with bitterness.
(2) Your Course
Look at the next part of the passage. James write, “The tongue…sets the course of one’s life on fire.” (v.7b) In other words – the tongue doesn’t just lead you to current sin, but it also leads to future sin.
“Why yes! I’ll tell you a lie about what I did for work last week!” And now I am on course with future lies to keep that lie going.
“Why yes! Even though I’m married, I find you to be quite attractive.” And now I am on course with future flirting, lust…even adultery!
“Why no! I don’t think that we should listen to the Bible on that point.” And now I have set my children on course to a life where we don’t listen to what God’s Word has to say!
(3) Its Own Eternal Destiny
James finishes by writing, “The tongue is itself set on fire by hell.” (v.7c)
Because…wicked words are sin.
The wages of sin is death.
Even eternal death in hell.
God doesn’t love it when we speak evil against His created beings or lead His created beings into sin.
He hates it so much he threatens punishment.
Even punishment in hell.
To be fair – the last one is probably good enough reason.
But combined, we have plenty of reason to tame our tongues…
To watch what we say.
To not use our tongues for evil.
III. Taming the Tongue
But…how does one tame their tongue?
Have you ever tried it?
James says this about taming the tongue:
All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. (v.7)
Think about how true that is.
Humans can tame Elephants. They’re gigantic creatures and yet, in India, they knock down trees and haul the logs wherever their trainers tell them to deliver it.
Humans can tame Lions. At the circus, the lion tamer turns to the king of the jungle, the sharp toothed, alpha predator and tells the ferocious cat to open his jaws and then – places his skull directly inside.
Humans can tame Killer Whales. At SeaWorld, Shamu, an aquatic animal of over 2,000 pounds – listens to his trainers as they hold up one tiny finish to get him to splash the crowd on demand.
Humans can train all of these different animals….
The elephant trainer struggles to stop his tongue from dropping four letter words when he steps in a pile of dung.
The lion tamer struggles to stop his tongue from boasting to his assistant because he thinks he is the greatest.
The SeaWorld trainer struggles to stop his tongue from lying – Yes, he did remember to feed the walruses – even though he didn’t.
Humans are terrible at taming their tongues.
No human can tame their own tongue.
Which means… the only one that can tame the tongue is someone isn’t human at all…
Do you know who has one of the worst tongues?
It’s the devil.
He’s been using his tongue to set the world on fire…ever since the beginning.
He spoke to God and said, “I should be God. Not you.”
He lied to Adam and Eve said, “Sin won’t be such a bad thing, trust me.”
He lies to you and me and says, “Your tongue has gotten you into so much trouble – there’s no way that God could ever forgive you.”
Satan has a powerful tongue.
His words can cause you to despair.
To be overwhelmed with guilt.
To be filled with regret.
To lose all hope.
While Satan’s tongue is powerful…
It’s not powerful enough.
If anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One… (1 John 2:1)
Did you see that? Jesus is our Advocate.
That means he talks on our behalf.
And when the devil comes along and says, “Throw that person in hell! They have done so many sins.”
Jesus says, “Shut up!”
“I died for them.”
“I rose for them.”
“I defeated sin for them.”
“I defeated death for them.”
“They are forgiven.”
Jesus tames the devil’s tongue and speaks on our behalf.
His speech is more powerful!
It’s not just human speech. But it is God’s own speech.
God’s tongue? It can tame things that even humans cannot.
It tamed a storm when Jesus said, “Stop.”
It tamed an incurable skin disease when Jesus said, “Be healed.”
It tamed death itself when Jesus said to the young man’s corpse, “Live!”
And it tamed your guilt and shamed when Jesus said to you:
But that’s not it. Check out this passage:
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22)
Here’s the truth. With faith in Jesus, we have the Holy Spirit.
And with the Holy Spirit in our hearts we are able to tame our tongues.
Because the holy Spirit – he’s God.
He doesn’t speak any evil.
In addition, the Holy Spirit empowers you to tame your tongue,
And use it for HIS purpose.
To speak love.
To speak joy.
To speak peace.
To speak patience.
To speak goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
IV. What Now?
If you take a look at the next part of James’ letters – here’s a few rapid-fire instructions from James:
1) Produce a Singular Flow
James writes: With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water. (v.9-12)
Because if you bent down to grab a drink from a small area of fresh water and after bringing it to your lips, and got a mouth full of salt? That’s not good.
And if you went over to your fig tree and found some olives growing on it – I’d be really concerned about those olives.
If you have a fresh identity in Jesus, it will seem very odd if you mix your “praise Jesus” with the same old sinful language.
That means we’ve got to work hard by God’s grace to keep our language pleasant, kind, and loving -- not just on Sunday for an hour a week – but all the time.
With our family.
With our friends.
With our enemies.
May we produce a singular flow of refreshed language.
2) Keep it In
To do that, we’ve got to learn to keep it in. James said, “If you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it!” (v.14)
Don’t say the angry thing that comes to mind.
Don’t drop the four-letter word.
Don’t just relay gossip without thinking about it.
We need to develop some self-control, that every time we’ve got something on our tongues, we stop. Think about it. And consider:
Does this work with my mission of Planting the Message of Jesus in the Hearts of my friends and family?
If not…don’t say it.
There’s nothing worse than a Christian working against his own mission by being uncareful with his tongue. Don’t hurt others’ work of sharing Jesus by gossiping about them.
I’ll never forget the time I was excited to follow up on a visitor to church to see if they wanted to come back. I asked them if they enjoyed the music? Yes. The message? Yes. The coffee? Yes.
But would they be back?
They had overheard a few ‘members’ at their fellowship table complaining about others in church.
They heard salty language in what was supposed to be a fresh water environment.
Keep those negative comments to yourself. Don’t infect others.
3) Purify your Language
Just like trying to purify your tap water so that you can drink it…
We’ve gotta purify our language so that it accomplishes our mission.
To do that, we’ve gotta run it through the best purity filter of all. God’s Word: “The wisdom that comes from heaven is PURE.” (v.17)
If you want to know if the thing you want to say is pure or not, run it by the God’s Word filter.
Is it a lie? God’s Word says don’t lie.
Is it gossip? God’s Word says don’t gossip. And true things are gossip, too!
Is it loving? God’s Word says, “Be loving.” Good…I can say that.
Familiarity with God’s Word will help install this permanent filter in our hearts - to prevent any disgusting outpouring of filth from our tongues.
4) Sow Peace
James writes, “Peacemakers who sow in peace reap in righteousness.” (v.18) Because when we are talking about the best, most positive, and on-the-mission things to speak – nothing comes close to speaking the peace of God’s Word.
There’s nothing more uplifting than telling others about their Savior.
There’s nothing more encouraging than reminding them of his love.
There’s nothing more heartening than telling someone they are forgiven.
And that Gospel message is like a seed that’s planted.
And after planting it carefully…
Again – again and again.
Eventually – that message might grow.
Grow into a harvest of righteousness.
A soul saved.
Friends, may God bless our speech as we used our tongues to the glory of God’s kingdom. Amen.
What is your purpose in 2019?
Pay off the mortgage – and every action that you take, every decision that you make is with the goal of paying off that house?
Maybe it’s just to look good – and every food you eat, every movement you make has the goal of looking more like you did in your twenties?
Help your business grow – and every Facebook post that you share has the goal of taking your entrepreneurship to the next level?
We recently got a cat. Yep. A cat. It’s my first one – and I guess it’s not as bad as I thought because I’m still living. Her name is Minnie. Her full name is Minnie, Warrior Kitty.
Now – she can’t talk, but after watching her interact with our house for the past two weeks – I think I understand what her mission is for 2019. I think her mission is to defend the world at all costs against any button, any remote control, any dust ball and any stray tissue that dares cross her path!
Pretty lofty goals…I know.
We’re in the middle of a sermon series called FRESH. This week our topic is PUPORSE. We want to find a fresh purpose in God for 2019 – what kind of mission statement can we adopt in our personal lives to fulfill that purpose! Before we do that, a prayer: Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see; our ears to hear what you want us to hear and our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. A 1st Century Purpose
The section of God’s Word that we’ll study this morning comes from 1 Timothy 2. Timothy is a letter written to a young pastor named Timothy. It is written by Paul who was an older pastor that had a lot of experience starting churches. In this section, he is giving Timothy some instructions on what he should be teaching the people. He writes:
I urge, first of all, that prayers, petitions, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for all people and for kings and all in authority. (1 Timothy 2:1)
Note the “First of all.” It identifies the first thing in a list of things that Paul will be telling Timothy to teach the congregation. But it also denotes a certain level of importance. This first teaching is of great importance to God’s kingdom; so, it is listed first. It’s important, by the way, in both the 1st century AND the 21st century. So…listen up.
The first thing that’s of great importance for Christians to do?
(1) Pray for All people.
That’s not easy. Usually people like to pray for people that they (1) know and that they (2) like. It’s why people pray for themselves (they like themselves). Also their family, their kids, their spouse, and maybe even a few people from church…but probably not all of them.
Paul’s instruction is more all-encompassing than that. Paul says to pray for all people.
That includes not only the people that we know and like…
But the people that we don’t know and might not like.
For the stranger across town.
For the stranger across the world.
For the coworker that you don’t like.
For the friend that’s no longer your friend.
For the rich guy who owns a mansion.
For the homeless guy on the street.
Even for the internet troll who puts an angry face on all of your political posts.
God’s Word says to pray for all of those people.
And then to top it all off - he says to pray for a group of people that probably ranks high on most people’s list of people that they don’t want to pray for:
It’s like the coup de grace of un-prayable people.
(2) Pray for the Government.
This is interesting timing. Because we just completed a month-long government shut down. And it is highly possible that there will be another one. A shut down where lawmakers and elected officials can’t coexist and are costing people their salaries; not their own, but the people who aren’t involved in those decisions and use that money to live on.
Does it seem hard to pray for those Washington guys right about now?
If so, think about this:
The letter we are reading was written at a time when there was no democracy. There weren’t term limits. There wasn’t an opportunity to vote someone out of office if you didn’t agree with their methods.
There was the Roman emperor.
Using violent Roman soldiers.
To enforce his will.
And his most recent will? It was to throw Christians in jail, separate families, and even murder them.
Yet…Christians were still supposed to PRAY for the government.
Since it’s been recorded for us, we are still supposed to pray for our government.
That’s hard, too.
But…maybe it depends on the prayer!
Maybe it makes sense for us to pray for the government to enact laws to make our lives better.
Or to make laws that give US a tax break.
Or to make laws that fit our own political agendas.
Is that what our prayers are for?
Nope. Look at verse 2:
Pray…That we may live peaceful and quiet lives in godliness and holiness. (v.2b)
For our godliness and holiness.
For a culture that amplifies our godliness and holiness.
To put it another way –
We are to pray that God helps us let HIS light shine.
II. God’s Mission Statement
Now – this prayer request comes from God’s Word.
So…Maybe that seems a bit – selfish.
Maybe that seems a bit – vain.
Let me get this straight God...YOU want me to pray to YOU for opportunities to make YOU more well- known?
This is not about God. Take a look at verse 3:
God our Savior wants all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
You can learn a lot about an organization by its mission statement.
Do you know PETA? People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Their mission is to support the rights of all animals.
Habitat for Humanity? Their mission is to bring people together to build homes and hope.
Starbucks? To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one cup at a time…
Domino’s mission statement? To sell more pizza.
What is God’s mission Statement?
Let everyone know how awesome I am?
Reign terror on all people.
Confuse people about what His plans?
God’s mission statement is this:
Save All People.
That’s really a God-sized mission statement, right?
Because God’s mission is not that some might be saved.
Or a lot.
Or even most.
God wants all people to be saved.
And that mission is what guides his every action!
We saw it in our Gospel lesson for today.
Jesus had spent all night doing miracles.
He made the blind see.
He made the deaf hear.
He made the lame walk.
He made the guy with the cold better.
He made the woman with cancer well.
He made the child with epilepsy calm, healthy.
Jesus did miracle after miracle until it was too dark for people to come find him at the house he was at.
Early the next morning, before he got back to doing miracles, Jesus went up on a hillside to pray.
As he was praying, he heard a commotion in the distance.
It was his disciples:
Jesus! There you are. We’ve been looking all over for you.
I know it’s early but they’re here. The sick. The lame. Some kid who has a whooping cough. Some guy who can’t walk. There’s a woman who has a very bad fever. They’re all here – waiting at the house – waiting for you to heal them. We told them to wait but – Jesus, if we want to stay ahead of this, you’d better get back so that you can help them.
And Jesus listened.
He got to his feet.
And said something – rather strange:
“Let us go someplace else – to the nearby villages – that I may preach there also. That is why I have come.” (Mark 1:38)
Doesn’t that seem strange?
Jesus usually helps people, right?
And that is the exact reason that he doesn’t go back to down to heal the people who were physically ill.
He needed to head to other villages in order to help others who were spiritually ill.
In short, Jesus understood his mission: TO SAVE ALL PEOPLE.
He understood his mission even when the prayers and requests of all people were – “Don’t do that eternal soul saving mission; come over here and do the ‘make my life better now’ mission.”
It’s proof that Jesus wasn’t all talk.
He wasn’t like some CEO who says that he wants to help lots of people, but when the going gets tough – isn’t willing to give up a cent.
Jesus… gave himself as a ransom for all people. (v.6)
When the only way to save people from their sins was for him to give up his life…
Jesus didn’t bat an eye.
He came down to earth.
He lived perfectly when we couldn’t.
He died innocently in our place.
He rose triumphantly for the forgiveness of all of our sins.
And to be fair – we’ve talked about it very broadly.
God’s goal is to save all people.
But Narrowly, God’s mission has always been To. Save. You.
It’s why he’s speaking to you today.
It’s why he’s speaking to you in these words.
It’s why he’s speaking to your heart and imploring you.
Believe in Jesus.
III. Our Mission Statement
But that’s not the end of this lesson. Look at what Paul writes next:
For this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle—a true and faithful teacher of the Gentiles. (v.7)
A herald was specifically associated with royalty. The herald would give messages on behalf of the king. He’d carry one of those long, large golden trumpets – he’d blow the trumpet and deliver a message from the King. “Hear ye; hear ye; Whoppers are now 2 for $3 at the Burger King’s restaurant.” We use the word in a famous Christmas song – “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.” Herald angels are not a bunch of angels with the same first name: “Harold, I told you to put your halo back on!” Herald angels were messengers delivering a message from the Divine King: “A Savior has been born!”
Paul was a herald, too. His job was to herald the message of Jesus, the Savior.
To herald it in the marketplace.
To herald it in the synagogue.
To herald it at Uncle Lou’s backyard cookout.
Everywhere he went he heralded the message of Jesus.
Paul was also an apostle. That’s a very specific job. An apostle is a word used to describe the 12 apostles and Paul. The twelve apostles were men who (1) saw the risen Lord Jesus, (2) were sent out by Jesus (3) were given the ability to do miracles by the Holy Spirit.
Undoubtedly that was very helpful for Paul! Because as he heralded the message of the Savior, the miracles that he was able to do would help to prove that his message was truth.
(It’s very similar to why Jesus’ did miracles. It was a supplement to his mission of Saving all people) Paul was able to do miracles as a supplement to help him share the message of Jesus which saved all people!
But what about you?
You might not be able to do miracles.
So…how do you fit into this mission?
Have you ever heard Mt. 28:19? It says, “Go and make disciples of all nations…by teaching them everything I have commanded you.”
Part of what the apostles heralded was the message of Jesus.
And another part of what the apostles heralded was the importance of sharing the message of Jesus. Take a look:
2 Corinthians 5:20, “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors as if God were making his appeal through us.”
1 Peter 3:15, “Be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have.”
Mark 16:15, “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to all creation.”
Do you get it?
You have purpose.
Your purpose is to be a supporter and a part of Jesus’ mission.
That’s a big deal.
Your purpose isn’t just temporal, it’s eternal.
Your purpose isn’t just human, it’s divine.
Your purpose isn’t just to help something with something that will last a moment; your purpose it to help someone with something that will last for eternity.
You have purpose.
And that purpose is specific!! The apostle Paul did this in a very specific context. The Bible says that he was a teacher of the Gentiles. He didn’t just stay in the synagogues. He didn’t just stay with the people that were Jewish. He was specifically called to bring the message to the Middle East and Southern Europe.
You have a specific purpose, too.
In fact, you have a specific purpose that is key to God’s kingdom.
Because you can to share the message with people that Paul never will be able to do.
You are can share the message with people that I can’t.
You are called to be a part of Jesus’ mission for your people.
Your Facebook friends.
Not only do you have purpose, but you are key to God’s mission.
God will work through you to bring the message of Jesus to the people that you are connected to!
IV. What Now?
1. Pray for Mission Work
Do you remember what Paul was telling Timothy to tell the people? They were to be prayer warriors for the mission of God.
Since that message has been preserved for you and me to read today, we can say with confidence that God wants you to participate in his mission by being a prayer warrior for his kingdom.
That’s important. Because it’s really easy to pray for yourself.
It’s really easy to pray for God to help you with your cold.
To pray for God to help you with your work.
To pray for God to help you with your finances.
And to be fair – you should pray for those things.
But God also wants us to pray for the spiritual.
God wants us to pray for His Mission.
In fact, that’s what he tells us to do in the Lord’s prayer.
In God’s prayer we say, “Thy Kingdom Come.”
That’s not a reference to God becoming president of America in 2020.
It isn’t a reference to God setting up a Christian utopia on this earth.
It’s a reference to mission work!
Pray for mission work.
Add it to your Google calendar.
Write reminders to pray on your bedside post.
Pray for people you know that need to hear about Jesus.
Pray for people you don’t know that need to hear about Jesus.
And pray for the people that you plan to share Jesus with.
If you are a teacher, you need to teach.
If you are writer, you need to write.
Because if you are a coal miner, the most important thing for you to do is to mine coal.
If you are a herald, then the most important thing for you to do is herald!
To share the saving message of Jesus.
To herald at home.
To herald at work.
To herald at the dinner table.
To herald on a night out with friends.
To herald online.
To herald via text message.
To herald in person.
To herald in the heart of North Raleigh.
And, here’s the thing: when it comes to being a herald – it doesn’t do a lot of good to herald when no one is looking.
It doesn’t do a lot of good to herald quietly.
Speak loudly the message of Jesus for all to here.
Which may be a bit intimidating.
You might feel like you can’t do it.
But you’re never alone. God is always with you and may He continue to bless you as you live out your purpose. Amen.
We’re in the middle of a sermon series called FRESH. This week our topic is refreshing friendships. We want to learn how to seek refreshing friendships and how to be refreshing friends. Before we do that, a prayer: Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see; our ears to hear what you want us to hear and our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. Friendship and Its Blessings
To start – a bit of a study on the Greek word for friendship: “Philia”. Philia is actually one of four Greek words for “love”:
Storge is the word used for parental love. In parental love, love develops downward between the parent and their child. The parent loves the child because he sees the child’s need for love. The child loves the parent because of their providing.
Eros is the word for romantic love. In romantic love, love develops between two people that are facing each other. Picture them looking into each other’s eyes romantically. This is a back and forth relationship. The man loves the woman because she is gorgeous. The woman loves the man because he is studly.
Philia is a bit different. Rather than a love that involves people looking at each other, friendship love develops between two people that are standing side by side. They are side by side as they face something together.
To put it another way, friendship develops as you go through life together:
Friendship develops as you cheer for your favorite football team together.
Friendship develops as you talk about being a mom together.
Friendship develops as you watch The Bachelor together.
Friendship develops as you pretend to be the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles together.
Unlike the other two types of love which point the people at each other, philia love points people at their shared goal.
Friendship is a love between two people who share a common goal.
For me, some of my best friends have come from my time playing football. I shared some common experiences with those guys. I remember sweating with them. I remember getting bruised with them. I remember waking up at 5am to go and run sprints around the football field with them. I remember rolling around in the mud in the middle of a torrential downpour with them. I remember practicing in 10-degree weather, snow falling everywhere, wearing these big yellow, football coats in order to stay warm with them.
I remember winning with them.
I remember losing with them.
I remember sharing the common goal of playing football with them.
And here’s the thing – I can call up some of those friends even today and instantly get into an argument about whose fault it is that in round 2 of State tournament. We gave up a 65-yard TD run to lose the game in the closing minutes (Spoiler: It wasn’t me. My assignment was the fullback)
Maybe you have a few friends like that, too. The Bible describes the blessings of friendship:
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor. (Ecclesiastes 4:9) This is like that old Math problem. If I can paint a house in 45 hours and you can paint it in 40 hours, how fast do we paint it together? The answer is – that it’s faster. Two people with the shared goal of work, have the blessings of doing that work together.
If one falls down, one can help the other up. (v.10) You get the picture of two friends whose shared goal is running a Tough Mudder. If one of them falls down into the mud, the friend will stop to help them up. Their shared goal develops a bond where it is mutually beneficial to help each other along the goal.
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. (v.11) This is the blessing of protection. Remember – this is written at a time when people walked dangerous ancient roads from city to city – where bandits could easily attack a solo travel. Two people? That increases your eyes on attack; it increases your hands in the fight; it increases the muscle power on your team. Modernly speaking, two sets of thumbs increase your chances of defeating other teams in Fortnite.
Friendship is a Biblical concept. The Bible agrees that it is a blessing for people go through life together with other people.
II. Where to Avoid Friendship
The Bible also has something say about where to find our friendships.
It has something to say about the difference between a beneficial friendship and a not so beneficial friendship.
Take a look at James 4:4-5 -
Don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who choose to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.
The Bible is not saying, “Don’t be friends with anyone in this world.” Nope. If that were the case, we’d have to pay closer attention to NASA’s trips searching for life on other planets. Chewbacca or ALF might be the only options.
But the Bible is telling us to be careful that earthly friendships do not lead us to loving the world – and worldly things – more than God.
Specifically – I think it warns against two types of friendships:
1) Sin Based Friendships.
This may seem obvious… at least…theoretically.
Friendships that lead you into sin are not refreshing.
Again – obviously, in theory; but oblivious in practicality.
It’s so easy for friendship to revolve around sin:
The friend with whom you share the goal of getting drunk – and the guilt of having done stupid things.
The friends with whom you share the joy of gossiping about others – and the insecurity that they’re probably doing that about you in some other group.
The friends with whom you share the goal of getting together and bad mouthing the government – and lack giving of attention to my own inadequacies and failures.
Friendships that revolve around sin also revolve around guilt.
There’s nothing refreshing about guilt.
2) Material Things.
This is more challenging to see, because material things are not inherently sinful.
It isn’t wrong to have money.
It isn’t wrong to like politics.
It isn’t wrong to enjoy the sandwiches at Chick-fil-A.
And it isn’t wrong to have friendship that are based on these things.
But…what happens when material things are your focus?
Let me tell you about the Corinthian congregation. The Corinthian congregation was a group of believers that lived in a very materially focused society. Corinth was a trading area. Corinth had a big marketplace. Corinth was about money, money, money, money. The here. The now. The everyday. The material.
And some of the Corinthians had a lot of friends that were very focused on material things.
So…the Corinthian believers had a bit of a disconnect going on in their lives.
On Sundays, they’d gather for worship and be reminded: “It’s all about Jesus! He is our Savior. He leads to eternal life.”
The rest of the week? “Jesus doesn’t matter. He isn’t real. Worry about money. That’s real.”
The end result? Quite a few of the Corinthian believers stopped believing in the resurrection.
That’s why Paul writes this: “You know that bad company corrupts good character.” (1 Cor. 15:54)
It’s like adding one rotten, fuzzy, moldy apple to the apple cider mixture. As soon as that apple’s is a part of the mixture, the whole thing gets disgusting.
The Corinthians were believers, but you have so many friendships based on non-believing things – Christianity started to fall away.
This is a big deal question -- Do you have friends like that?
Friends who threaten to take away your faith?
Understand -- the Bible isn’t telling us to drop all of those friends. Nope.
But it is telling us this:
The more time you spend on friendships that have little to no focus on the spiritual, the less you will be focused on the spiritual.
The less you are focused on the spiritual, the less you are focused on your Savior.
The less you are focused on your Savior, the more your faith will weaken.
The more your faith weakens, the closer you are to drifting away from faith forever.
III. Where to Seek Friendship
But if that’s where we should avoid seeking friendships,
What kind of friendships should we seek?
The Centurion paced back and forth in his office.
If ever he needed friends, it was right now.
You see – one of his trusted associates, a comrade, a friend, a coworker was very ill.
He was in need of a friend…
…But not just any friend.
He didn’t need a friend who could express platitudes and offer his “thoughts” being with them.
He was in need of a friend who could help.
A friend who could heal.
Because of his high position in the Roman government, he had plenty of places to look for that friend.
He could ask his higher ups for access to Caesar’s doctors.
He could ask his wealthy friends for contact in upcoming medicine.
He could ask his well-travelled commanders if they knew anyone from their travels who might be able to help.
But he didn’t turn to them.
Instead, he turned to the country he had conquered.
Instead, he turned to someone who wasn’t a doctor.
Instead, he turned to a lowly carpenter’s apprentice that he had never met.
And he said, “Heal my servant, but Lord, don’t trouble yourself (to come here), for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed.” (v.6-7)
Jesus, I don’t deserve your help.
I might be a Roman centurion that commands a myriad of soldiers that enforce their rules of the country that you are but a lowly traveling minister of, but…I know, full well…that I don’t deserve your friendship.
Because you are more than a lowly carpenter.
You. Are. God Himself.
Jesus didn’t ignore Him.
Jesus didn’t say, “I have other friends.”
Jesus didn’t say, “And…who are you?”
He simply healed his servant.
There is no better friend than Jesus.
There is no friend more helpful.
There is no friend more worthy of being sought.
No friend more kind.
No friend more powerful.
No friend more merciful.
No friend more forgiving.
No friend who loves you more than Jesus Christ himself.
In fact, John 15 says this: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
Understand – that’s what Jesus did for you. He not only said, “I’ll be your friend…even when you’ve sinned against me.”
He’ll said, “I’ll be your friend. And as my first act of friendship, I will die for you.”
And then, look at what Jesus says in John 15, “I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”
Jesus calls you His friend.
And it means – you can call him YOURS.
And it means – there is no greater friendship that you can seek than your friendship with your Lord.
2. People who Point You to Jesus
If your friendship with Jesus is the number one friendship to seek, then a secondary type of friendship is people who point you to Jesus.
Maybe you’ve got a friend like that.
A friend who points you to Jesus.
A friend who reminds you of your Savior.
A friend who encourages you in the faith.
If you you’re having trouble thinking, look around. Do you see all these people? That’s why they exist.
You need them.
They need you.
In fact, Hebrews 10 says this, “Let us not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
The point? Find friends who point you to Jesus.
Be a friend who points people to Jesus.
IV. WHAT NOW?
1) Meetup with Church Friends
This is essentially the writer’s point in Hebrews when he says, “Do not give up meeting together.” The reason is twofold: (1) Don’t give up meeting with those who can refresh your faith. (2) Don’t give up meeting with those whose faith you can refresh.
And this isn’t just a Sunday thing.
It’s not just friends that you see for one hour a week each Sunday.
These are friends that God’s Word tells us to uplift throughout the week.
Question – You ever hung out with anyone at church during the week before? You should do it.
Are you nervous to ask them? Don’t worry they’re nervous, too.
Grab a coffee.
Send a Facebook message.
Have them over to your house.
And don’t just make a text message group. Is there any wonder that we are more connected now than ever before? Social media apps, 15 different ways to stay connected all within the palm of our hand – and yet – suicide rates are higher than ever in the U.S. Depression rates are high. Loneliness is high.
Because even though this is a blessing, if it is our only form of communication – we are missing something.
Actual. Physical. Interaction.
A high five.
A fist bump.
The Bible says, “Meet together.” Christians at the time of writing Hebrews, would have longed for a safe place to meet together, without the Roman government that wanted to KILL them.
We have the ability to meet together.
Let’s do so.
2) Encourage Each Other
Then, when we do meet together, look at what we’re to do: Encourage one another.
Notice it doesn’t say: “Let us not give up complaining to each other.”
Nor does it say: “Let us not give up gossip with one another.”
Nor does it even say: “Let us not give up getting together to fight.”
Meet together and encourage each other.
May I dare say that if you’re looking for something encouraging to say – there is nothing more encouraging than the message of Jesus.
3) Bring God into the Friendship
Because God doesn’t want you to only associate with believers. Look at Matthew 5, “You are the light of the world. Let your light shine before people that they may see your good deeds and praise your father in heaven.”
If your light is going to shine before people who are in darkness, it necessitates that you interact with those in darkness.
Make friends in the world. Make friends with people who don’t believe. Make friends with those who aren’t focused on Jesus.
Tell them about Jesus.
Bring them the light of the world.
And I’ll tell you this – you will be the most REFRESHING friend they’ve ever met!
Do you remember earlier? We mentioned there were four types of love. I only talked about three. The fourth type of love is called AGAPE. Agape love is different than all the other loves. Because all the other loves are conditional.
I’ll love my child; if he acts like my child.
I’ll love my spouse; if she loves me.
I’ll love my friend; if we have things in common.
But Agape LOVE? It’s unconditional.
It’s one sided.
It’s love that just loves because that’s what this kind of love does.
That’s a kind of love that humans aren’t very good at.
But it is a kind of love that GOD specializes in.
And now, think about this: The God who has undeserved, constant, undisputed love for you – is the same God who is your friend!
The God with Agape love is your God of your Philia love.
And that’s the same refreshing message that God has called you to prepare for others.
Because the hearts of a REFRESHING friendship is none other than Jesus.
We’re in the middle of a sermon series called FRESH. It’s all about getting a FRESH start in the new year. So far, we have gotten a FRESH perspective – that God is not for the “righteous,” but for sinners; and we have learned about the personal FRESH start that God offers to us in baptism.
But…how does all of this affect YOUR day to day life?
It’s kind of like becoming a vegan. Once you get a Vegan Life tattoo, you don’t just go to Burger King for a Triple Whopper.
Or if you are diagnosed with Gluten Intolerance, it’s not wise to bemoan the diagnosis with a package of saltine crackers.
Or even if you declare yourself a Duke fan and you attend the Duke basketball game in full Duke blue, it would be unwise to stand up and cheer when a baby blue Tarheel slam dunks the basketball.
Once you have been given a FRESH start, it necessitates that you live in a FRESH way.
Today we are going to dive into God’s Word to learn more about what a FRESH lifestyle looks like. Before we do that, a prayer: Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see; our ears to hear what you want us to hear and our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. The Ephesian Issue
The lesson for today comes from the book of Ephesians. It’s a letter written by a pastor to church in Ephesus. And there are two main reasons that he writes the letter:
(1) Young Church.
This church in Ephesus was not that old. The majority of the people that belong to that church were fairly young in their faith, too.
This isn’t necessarily bad. Usually when people are young in their faith, they are filled with enthusiasm and excitement for their Savior and for the FRESH start that He has given them.
But one of the challenges when you are a young-in-faith Christian is that you don’t have very deep roots in the faith.
Like a young plant that hasn’t had a long time to grow deep roots, young in faith Christians haven’t had a long time to grow roots.
Paul’s letter was written, in part, to deepen their roots and grow their faith.
(2) Ungodly Culture.
The second reason for the letter goes hand in hand. Ephesus was not exactly a place well-known for worshipping the true God.
It wasn’t a place that taught that Messiah.
It wasn’t a place that was blessed with a temple or filled with Old Testament readers.
It was a city that developed a good portion of its economic capital from false god worship.
There were temples devoted to false gods.
Priests paid to man those temples to false gods.
Maintenance men paid to fix the toilets at those temples devoted to false gods.
In fact, in Acts 19 describes a marketplace that was dedicated to buying little handmade false gods for you to take home and worship. Can you imagine? I picture storefronts with names like: “Idols ‘R Us”, “JC Idols,” and “Build-a-Bear: False God Edition.”
One of the most famous false gods to worship in Ephesus was a god called Artemis.
Artemis was not a god like the LORD.
Artemis didn’t have so many rules.
Artemis didn’t care if you were drunk when you worshipped her.
She didn’t care if you chose to worship her by sleeping with people you aren’t married to.
In fact, she encouraged you to come to special room in the temple where lots of people slept with other people they weren’t married to – all in the name of Artemis!
The new church in Ephesus was young in their faith.
Paul’s concern was that many of them would claim to be followers of Jesus, but then follow the same, regular old, sinful, Ephesian way of life.
As a result, Paul writes his letter:
So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. (v.17)
“Gentile” is a word that usually means not Jewish.
But here it’s focus isn’t on the genealogical code of the Ephesian people.
But on their lifestyle – as a people far apart from the true God.
Paul wants them, the people who are close to God, to stop living like the people who are far apart from God.
Three reasons the Ephesian way of life wasn’t all it was cracked up to be:
(1) Darkened in Understanding.
The picture is of a two people. A guy who is blindfolded and in darkness and a guy who isn’t blindfolded and can see. The guy who can see has no problem maneuvering as he goes about life. He can see things, so avoid obstacles and walks around bumps in the road. But the guy who is blindfolded has troubles. He bumps into walls. He stumbles on steps. He steps on Friendly, the neighborhood cat!
It would not make a lot of sense for the guy who doesn’t have the blindfold on to say: “I wish I was wearing a blindfold. Then, I could bump into things, trip over obstacles and be viciously attacked by Friendly, the neighborhood cat.”
Yet – that’s exactly what the Ephesians believers were doing.
They were the ones in the light. They knew what the truth was. They knew what pleased God.
But they were being tempted to live like the people with the blindfolds on!
“Man, I wish that I was drunk more. It’d be fun to ruin the few friendships I have left by screaming obscenities at people.”
“I’m so jealous of Bob. I wish I had the intimacy issues that he has thanks to playing the field and sleeping with a different girl each night.”
“Family is alright, but I think I need to be more like others at work to focus more on money, money, money, money, money…”
This is foolish. If you are in the light but walk around with your eyes closed – don’t be surprised when you leave a relational mess everywhere you go.
(2) Lost Sensitivity.
Paul writes, “having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity and they are full of greed.” (v.18)
Does this ever happen to you? You’re looking for a late-night snack and you grab the bag of chips up in the cupboard. You figure. “I’ll just have one.” You sit down. Turn on Netflix. And place one chip into your mouth.
You start searching through the “Because You Watched The Office” section of Netflix and have switched to putting two chips into your mouth.
You settle on your show and suddenly your find yourself, almost subconsciously, throwing in 5 or 6 chips at the same time.
Before you know it, you’re doing that thing where you just grab a pile with your hands, toss your head back and drop it into your open mouth.
You’ve lost all sensitivity.
It’s the same thing with sin. Something might seem morally repugnant to you: I hate looking at porn.
Then, you make that one concession: “I feel really, really bad. Granted, it was only a lingerie ad and I kinda have to look at it because it’s a pop-up ad. But it wasn’t right.”
Then, another concession: “Well, it’s only nudity. I suppose it’s not good for me, but it could be worse.”
And before you know it– “Yep. I watch porn. What’s the big deal?”
Staying on the path to an ungodly way of life leads to losing all sensitivity.
Like a friend of mine. I remember this back in college. Things were kind of going downhill for him. He took some of us aside and was in tears. He said, “I am struggling with the party lifestyle. I get wasted. I get high. I sleep around. It’s horrifying.
But…that’s not the reason I am concerned.
That’s not the reason I am horrified.
The reason I feel horrified…?
It’s because I don’t feel horrified.
Living a sinful lifestyle will lessen your sensitivity to sin. Be careful.
(3) Separated from the Life of God.
One final reason: “They are separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.” (v.18) And I think, really, this manifests itself in two ways.
They feel dead inside. They can’t shake sin. They can’t shake shame. They can’t shake this feeling that they are directly responsible for messing up their own lives. They are apart from God. Apart from the “life” that has forgiveness and stuck with the dead weight of their sins.
If you are a believer, this is multiplied.
Because the devil comes along and takes full advantage:
“You’re a believer…but you do that stuff. Hmmm… Are you sure?”
“You’re a God lover, why do you love that sinful thing so much? Maybe…God doesn’t love you.”
“You’re supposed to be his child? You’re acting like his enemy. You MUST be his enemy.”
If you continue in your sinful lifestyle, you will continue to deal with this dead inside feeling; and miss out on the joy of forgiveness!
But this is about more than feeling dead inside.
Do you remember John 3:16? It says, “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.”
That’s nice. That’s encouraging. That’s good news.
But…have you ever read John 3:18? “But whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he does not believe in the name of God’s Son.”
Condemned? That’s a reference to death.
Here’s Paul’s point: Are you, as a believer headed towards heaven, really jealous of the unbelieving way that leads to hell?
Do you believe it’s a better way from life?
If so, do you believe you are still a believer if you believe that life apart from Jesus is better?
Here’s the truth.
Living your life apart from God, threatens living eternal life apart from God.
This is a warning.
A warning Paul wrote.
A warning the Holy Spirit preserved.
A warning that God is speaking to your heart today.
Take heed. Because “That is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus.” (v.20-21)
II. Zacchaeus – a Case Study
Zacchaeus grabbed the lowest hanging branch of the sycamore fig tree and pulled himself up. He positioned his feet in the crook of the rather large branch, steadied himself with his left hand and while trying to catch his breath, he looked over the crowd to the speaking 300 some odd feet away.
Zacchaeus had always wanted to see him. He had heard Jesus promoting a new perspective on God. The promise that God loved even scum of the earth, tax collecting sinners like himself and sent the Savior for scum of the earth tax collecting sinners like himself.
It gave Zacchaeus hope. Because Zacchaeus lived a lifestyle without a lot of hope.
He had gotten into the tax collecting business for the money.
And the money led to greed.
The greed to deception.
Deception to stealing from his neighbors.
And the stealing from his neighbors…to not having many friends.
He got drunk.
He paid for women.
He paid for the illegal drugs for that table over there if only…they’d hang out with him.
It wasn’t real friendship.
It wasn’t a good way to life.
It left him alone, guilt and ashamed.
That’s why he had to be in the back – he was too sinful to be near a teacher like Jesus.
And he had to be in a sycamore fig tree because he was too short to see over anyone.
But from up in that branch…he could see just fine.
And he could see just fine…as Jesus spoke.
He could see just fine…as Jesus ended his sermon.
He could see just fine…as Jesus walked…directly…towards…him.
And Zacchaeus thought: “Surely! He’s going to call me out! Surely. He’s going to point out to the crowd a modern-day example of sin and filth – which is exactly what I am.”
But Jesus said something different: “Zacchaeus. Come down right now. I’m going to your house today.” (Lk. 19:5)
And Zacchaeus moved down from that tree faster than any house cat.
He was excited that Jesus wanted to be with Him.
He took him home to his house.
He listened as Jesus spoke about forgiveness.
He heard as Jesus proclaimed himself to be the Savior for scum of the earth, tax collecting sinners like himself.
And Zacchaeus believed Jesus.
And then! Zacchaeus said something that is altogether incredible:
“Look Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” (v.9)
Do you see it?
Zacchaeus didn’t need his money-based life when he had the promise of the eternal things.
Zacchaeus didn’t need to fill his life with greed when he was filled with the love of Jesus.
Zacchaeus didn’t need things and stuff when he had the one thing needful.
Zacchaeus didn’t need sin that condemns when he had the Savior who saves.
Neither do you.
You have the One.
You have your Savior.
You have absolutely, full and complete forgiveness with Jesus Christ.
You don’t need your former way of life.
You don’t need your sin.
You don’t need the stuff that the world apart from Christ chases after.
You have the eternal, constant, all-powerful, undeserved love of Christ Jesus.
Here’s what God’s Word is telling you:
Jesus gave up everything to be with you. Give up your sinful lifestyle to be with Him.
Just like Jesus said about Zacchaeus, “Today salvation has come to this house.” Literally!
Jesus, who is salvation, came to Zacchaeus’ house. What else did he need?
And that same Jesus, has come to your house, by faith. What else do you need?
III. WHAT NOW?
And so…the WHAT NOW? It comes from the next part of Ephesians four. Verse by verse. A three-step encouragement to find a new way of living.
1) Put Off Your Old Self
Paul writes, “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires.” (v.22)
A few years back I had this black shirt that I bought off the clearance rack of TJ MAXX (Because I only buy off the clearance rack at TJ Maxx) and I bought this on my own, without Julianna present. Anyway, I thought it was cool. It was a long-sleeved black, nice shirt that had charcoal stripes running lengthwise, and a subtle hint of flashiness when the light hit it the right way.
Julianna thought that the light should never hit it and it should remain in the closet.
Understand. This is the gist of what God is telling you.
Take off your old way of life.
Take off the addiction.
Take off the greed.
Take off the lust.
Take off the rage.
Take off the bitterness, gossip, and pride.
It doesn’t look good on you.
And…more importantly…it’s not who you are!
Take a moment. Think about a sin that you struggle with. Think of a sin that you like to wear.
I want you to identify that sin and this week, like right now and take steps to take off that old, sinful lifestyle!
Which might sound intimidating.
It might sound hard.
That’s why we need to remember the second point:
2) Be made NEW in your Minds
Paul continues, “You were taught…to be made new in the attitude of your minds…” (v.23) Look carefully at that verb. It’s passive. It doesn’t say, “Make your attitude new.” That’s really hard to do. Theologically, it’s impossible to do. If your mind is one of sin and the former way of life, it won’t be able to make itself new and develop a new way of life that’s actually new.
Instead, it’ll just be:
“I should stop gossiping.” And then, “Man, aren’t I awesome at not gossiping?”
From a lifestyle of gossip to a lifestyle of pride – aka – from a lifestyle of sin to a lifestyle of sin.
We need Jesus.
We need to BE MADE NEW.
We are made new in God’s Word.
We are truly made new through repeated, repetitive, persistent and consistent time in God’s Word.
It’s like moving down to Raleigh after living many years up North in Wisconsin. And now that I have been here 8 years --- I’ve noticed something about my vocabulary. I say things that I didn’t used to say.
I say things like:
and “Bless your heart.”
Time around people who said things like that has led me to be made new in my mind and speak things like that.
It’s the same with God’s way of living.
Time in God’s Word… Repeated, repetitive, persistent and consistent time in God’s Word will make our minds new.
Repeated, repetitive, persistent and consistent time watching that TV-Mature Netflix series? It won’t make you new. It’ll keep you in your old lifestyle.
But time in God’s Word?
It makes your minds new.
Because it reminds you of who you are.
This all leads to the final big point from Ephesians:
3) Put on the New Self
Specifically, Ephesians says: “Put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (v.24)
Because as the alarm goes off in the wee hours of the morning and you’re trying to figure out what outfit would look good and which pair of novelty socks you should wear today:
Don’t forget your watch.
Don’t forget your wedding ring.
And don’t forget to put on Jesus’ love.
Clothe yourself with the fact that you are forgiven.
Put on the socks that say you are SAVED.
Put on the T-shirt that says God’s child.
Put on the hat with the phrase HEALED FROM SIN visible on the brim!
Put on the NEW self and live as the NEW self the rest of the day.
That’s a NEW way of living.
That’s a FRESH way of living.
That’s the way of living that God has called you to. Amen.
Last week we started a sermon series called FRESH. The goal was to get a FRESH start in 2019. We started by getting a FRESH perspective on our relationship with God. We saw Jesus interact with a guy named Levi whom many religious leaders considered a ‘scum of the earth’ sinner to flip our perspectives on God and humans around. We learned that God came for sinners, not the righteous. The Savior from sin did not come for the sinless, but for the sinful.
This is exciting news.
But…maybe you don’t feel so excited.
Ever been to the farmer’s market? There’s one close by that bills itself as full of fresh, local produce. And to be fair – it is! As you walk around, there’s fresh asparagus, locally grown sweet potatoes, and dark green collards that will make delicious cooked greens.
But as you get somewhere near the midst of the market…
Amid Kinston, and even Raleigh proper…
There in the corner, you see it:
A big ol’ section of Florida Oranges.
They’ve even got the FLORIDA orange stickers on them as they sit right underneath the “Local, Fresh Market” sign.
Maybe you feel like that.
Maybe you feel like God’s kingdom is filled with religious looking people.
And, yes, Jesus came for sinners, but…Me? I’m a big, bad sinner.
Like a 3-week old Florida orange in a North Carolina Local Fresh market:
I don’t belong.
Today we are going to take the message of God’s love that brings a FRESH start and look at how it personally affects you. Before we do that, a prayer: Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see; our ears to hear what you want us to hear and our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. Personally Given by God
The lesson for today comes from the book of Titus. Titus, the book, is a letter written to Titus, the person. Titus, the person, first appears in a few other New Testament books. He came to faith in Jesus from the preaching of a pastor named Paul. But Titus didn’t just become a peripheral believer. He became an active member of the early church. He worked with Paul. He became a missionary. He helped start churches.
Eventually all of this experience led Paul to appoint Titus as the Lead Pastor of the congregation in Crete.
Now I imagine this was an exciting new job for Titus:
He got to share the Gospel!
He got to lead a group of believers to share the good news with their community.
He got to high five kids in children’s lessons.
And he always got the leftovers from the fellowship after worship.
But being a pastor doesn’t come without its challenges.
And being a pastor in Crete didn’t come without challenges, too:
Hotheaded Elders. The elders in church were being quite hot-headed with each other. There were disagreements and arguments. Consider this: Titus was younger than them. It is not so easy to tell older men what to do, let alone rebuke them. (2:1-2)
A Sin-filled Ladies’ Aid. The ladies aid got together to drink wine and gossip. Again – Titus was a lot younger than them. It must have been difficult to go from the “cute, little pastor’s assistant” to their pastor who rebukes them. (2:4)
Peers Struggling with Impurity. The young men were struggling with purity. Titus’ job was to stick out like a sore thumb among his peers and tell them to live pure lives – to stop looking at porn and stop sleeping with people that they weren’t married to. Have you ever tried to tell your peers that what they are doing isn’t right? It’s not so easy. (2:6)
False Doctrine. Some in the church believed things that weren’t true about Jesus; and some of those who believed it were teaching it in their version of group Bible study. Titus’ job? To tell them they were wrong and show them why they were wrong…even if they have doctorates, even if they have master’s degrees, even if Titus was still fairly new to this whole pastor thing! (2:1)
With all these challenges, I imagine that Titus was having some doubts.
I know it, because I’ve experienced the same thing as a pastor.
How can I be their leader?
How can I tell them to stop sinning when I’ve done the same sins?
How can I be the one to give them wisdom when I struggle to make the wise decisions every day?
How could I ever be worthy of being in God’s kingdom? Let alone serving in it?
Paul thought Titus needed encouragement. That’s why he wrote the letter to his comrade. Look at some of the encouragement: At one time, we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. (3:3)
Wait a second.
Titus is struggling with his worthiness to be a leader in God’s church.
And Paul’s encouraging response is to remind him of his total unworthiness?
And yet that’s what Paul tells Titus:
You were foolish! You didn’t know anything about God’s word.
You were disobedient! You did the same lustful things that the young men are struggling with.
You were deceived – following all kinds of false teachings and wrong viewpoints.
You were enslaved – with sin, with temptation, with guilt and shame.
Why would these words of discouragement be the words Paul uses to encourage Titus?
Because Paul thinks it is vitally important for Titus to understand this:
A Spiritual FRESH Start is NOT of Oneself Personally.
Imagine for a moment if you were really sweaty. Like really, really sweaty.
Like a one-hour workout at the Crossfit gym – biking, running, sit-ups.
You want to freshen up, so…
You take a shower.
You wash with soap.
You even spray on some nice cologne.
Then, you put on the exact same sweaty gym clothes that you had before.
Think about it:
If Titus really was going to start his FRESH Position as a FRESH Titus, the same, non-fresh things would happen!
He’d mess up.
He’d wake up the next day.
And sin and fail and mess up.
He’d feel like he was putting on the same sweaty, stale unspiritual, sinful self every day.
And I’ll tell you the truth.
If you try to start the new year FRESH, by using the same old power, motivation and strength (namely – your own) as you have in the past – it won’t be long before you smell that same old stench of sin.
Instead, look elsewhere for spiritual freshness elsewhere
That’s where Paul directs Titus: When the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. (v.4-5)
Did you catch that?
It wasn’t because of Titus that Titus was personally saved.
It wasn’t because of Titus’ own accomplishments.
It wasn’t because of his own works.
It wasn’t because of he, himself, or him!
It was because of God!
It was because of God’s love.
It was because of God’s mercy.
The same is true with you.
Your fresh start isn’t personally of you but personally of God!
God, who is holy…
God, who is divine…
God, who doesn’t have an ounce of sin in him…
God, who is merciful to save you from your miserable state…
That God is the God who had a hand in your own personal fresh start!
It’s similar to going to a Five Star Restaurant. It is disappointing to find out that your food isn’t prepared by the Five Star Chef and will only be prepared by his assistant. It’s just not as good. There’s a bit too much seasoning; the fish is uncooked; and the chicken Cordon Bleu is chicken Cordon “Meh.”
But when the Five Star Chef personally has a hand in your dish, it is magnifique!
God personally had a hand in your worthiness.
His hand was nailed to a cross.
His hand shed His blood.
His hand went limp as He died for you.
Three days later…
His hand moved again.
His hand had blood rushing back into it.
His hand was raised in victory as the conquering hero who saved you!
He tells you.
That you, yes you.
You, and I’m not kidding about this.
You, my believing friend, are forgiven.
Because of this, you, yes, YOU; have a FRESH start.
II. Baptism – a Personalized Gift
But that’s not all. Because God is such a God that he doesn’t stop at personally giving you a FRESH start.
Nope. He proclaims it to you in one of the most personal ways ever.
He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior.
Have you ever been to a church service – and the message is on point! And it’s filled with God’s grace and forgiveness and Jesus your Savior.
And you look around and you see everybody nodding their heads. They look enlightened. They are smiling. A few of them are even throwing in an “Amen.”
And you do too, fit in, but not to draw too much attention to yourself.
Yet…the reality is…
You feel like this message isn’t for you.
That nice-looking church lady over there. She’s even got one of those cross medallions fastened to her pocket. The message is definitely for her.
And that friendly church usher who is always so psyched for worship. It’s probably for him.
But not me.
I have sin.
I have a lot of sin.
The message is for them, not me.
In Baptism, God doesn’t leave you room for doubt. Because in Baptism…
…who else is having their sins washed away than the one whose body is being washed with water?
…who else is being welcomed by the triune God, then the one who is having the name of the Triune God spoken over him?
…who else is being covered in God’s love, then the one whose forehead is covered with water miraculous connected with God’s love?
…who else is being baptized into God’s kingdom, but the one who is being baptized into God’s kingdom!?!
In Baptism, God Gives a Fresh Start to you Personally.
And we know that it works! Because look at the power behind it: God saved us…by the Holy Spirit…through Jesus Christ. (v. 6)
Did you catch that? It is the Triune God himself! The real, divine, three persons in one God, God himself who is actively providing the power in Baptism.
That’s important because the power of this personalized fresh start isn’t dependent on the kind of water that is used. (Wait…has that water gone through three levels of purification?)
It isn’t dependent on the pastor’s morality! (“We’ll have to reschedule for tomorrow. Because I looked at my Facebook feed this morning and had all kinds of unchristian thoughts…”)
It isn’t even dependent on the sincerity of my personal confession. (“I’ll have to redo my baptism because I’m not so certain that I totally meant it.”)
It isn’t event dependent on my age. (“Was I old enough to try make MY baptism effective?”)
The power in Baptism is dependent on God.
The Holy Spirit.
Baptism is personally powered by the Triune God!
Your sins are no match for the volcano-erupting power of our Father!
Your guilt is no match for the holy, innocent blood of Jesus Christ.
Your doubts are no match for the faith producing power of the Holy Spirit.
And this isn’t a one-time power.
It isn’t as if God did this for you one time, but after that you were on your own.
Look again at what kind of a baptism it is: “A washing of rebirth and renewal.”
Rebirth implies a new life.
Rebirth implies a new identity.
Rebirth implies a new being entirely!
Think about it.
We were sinful, now we are forgiven.
We were enslaved, now we are free.
We were foolish, now we are called wise.
We were disobedient, now we are obedient.
We have been reborn!
For Titus, his baptism meant that he could approach his work in God’s kingdom with complete and utter confidence. He had a new identity in Jesus!
For you, your baptism means that you can approach your work in God’s kingdom with the same complete and utter confidence. You have a new identity in Jesus.
But it’s not just about rebirth; it’s also about renewal.
That’s a word that has a negative connotation for me. Because about 5 years ago we signed up for a 1-year magazine trial to Time Magazine and Real Simple Magazine. The deal was that we get an entire year of issues for $2. Every year come Christmas – because I’m not busy during Christmas – as I’m looking at our bank account to make sure that we will survive Christmas presents – I notice a charge from the magazine companies for about $200. And I call the number associated with it – and they are so thankful that I automatically renewed my subscription at full price for a full year!
Usually I select cancel and they tell me I can’t cancel, but GREAT NEWS! I have been selected for a 1 year’s subscription for $2.
Think of Baptism as the incredible, automatically renewing promise of God.
Because nowhere does God’s Word say: “You did wrong. You need another Baptism.” That would make Baptism into a temporal human work.
Instead, the Bible views it as God’s enduring, eternal promise. A promise that renews.
When you are done with an especially sin heavy day – But I am baptized! God made me his child.
When you are dealing with an especially strong temptation – but I am baptized! God put me in his kingdom.
When you are heavy laden with guilt – but I am baptized! – Jesus promised me forgiveness.
The promise of baptism offers personal renewal.
Every day renewal in God’s grace.
III. WHAT NOW?
1) If you aren’t Baptized, Be Baptized
If you haven’t been baptized, be baptized. Because in baptism, you receive the personalized gift of God for you personally in a very personal method.
If you haven’t been baptized, be baptized.
Or at least do this: Talk to me about it.
Write a note on your connection card.
Let’s have a conversation to answer your questions over coffee.
And you might say: “Well, I’m not sure if I’m ready. I’m not sure that I’m worthy of this blessing.”
You’re right. You aren’t.
But baptism isn’t something that you need to become worthy of receiving.
It’s something that by receiving you become worthy because of your connection to your Savior.
Do you believe in Jesus? Be baptized.
2) If you are Baptized, Remember it!
Sometimes during a birthday party, you open up a photo album or head to your iPhone and start to look at past birthdays.
There’s the one where you tried to put out the candle with your finger.
The one where crazy Uncle Joe tried to convince you that you were turning into a monkey.
The one where all your friends came over, ate up the cake, and ran around playing Ninja Turtles for 3 hours.
But don’t forget to reflect on your Rebirthday.
Because of your Rebirthday you have a new identity.
Because of your Rebirthday you have a new name – forgiven.
Because of your Rebirthday you have a fresh, new purpose!
This is the picture you need to remember no matter what you face in 2019.
You have a FRESH start.
It’s of God’s eternal promise and power.
It’s who you are today, tomorrow and always – thanks to God’s promise.
It is the new year and I’ll bet that you, like many other Americans, are ready for a FRESH start. Even though time is always flowing at the same pace as it always has, as soon as 364 days have taken place and the number changes on our cell phones – we get really motivated to start FRESH in our lives.
Maybe you want a FRESH start with your health: You resolve to eat healthier, join a gym and only eat one big of Doritos per day.
Maybe you want a FRESH start with your finances: You resolve to start an IRA, to talk to a financial planner, to budget your money and stay in that budget.
Maybe you want a FRESH start in your relationships: “I resolve to be kind, wiser and gentler to the people that I work with…which reminds me of another resolution: ‘Get a new job.’”
You want a FRESH start with God.
Today we are starting a new sermon series called FRESH. The goal is to FRESHEN our relationship with God. Before we get started, a prayer: Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see; our ears to hear what you want us to hear and our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. a FRESH kind of religious leader
The lesson for today starts in Luke 5:27. Look at what it says: “Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his collection booth.”
I think this is a great section of God’s Word for the start of a new year. Because it’s a true story about a guy who could use a fresh start in his relationship with God. I say that because Levi was a tax collector. That might not sound awful to you and me, but there are a few cultural things about tax collectors that would have caused the religious leaders of the time to consider Levi a “lost cause” that was “far away from God.”
1. Greedy. This is a bit obvious. But money has this weird effect on people: they like it. Sometimes they like it an appropriate amount. Sometimes a more than appropriate amount. The thought of the religious elite was that in a job like tax collector where you are constantly working with money, you develop an unhealth desire for money. A desire that drives a wedge between you and others. A desire that drives a wedge between you and your God – especially if that God is a God that is all about giving.
2. Traitors to the Pagans. Because the government that was collecting taxes in Jerusalem where the Jews lived was not a Jewish government. It was the Romans. Romans that didn’t worship the true God. Romans that worshipped Zeus, Aphrodite, Hades and other pagan gods. This meant that tax collections could be used to fund temples for false gods, to fund renovations on Caesar’s palace, and to help construct a wing in the Aphrodite temple for Roman soldiers to have wild parties.
The Jewish people didn’t worship those pagan gods. The Jewish people worshipped the one true God. A tax collector that was working with that pagan government? They were, at best, foolish; at worst, traitors to God’s people.
3. Deception. Tax collectors were not paid a lot of money. Yet most of them were fairly well-to-do. Why?
Imagine that you owe some taxes. I, the tax collector, would come to your door. I’d get out your file. I’d know that you owe about $10 in taxes. But instead of giving you a bill for $10…I’d just add an extra zero to it. I’d take the extra $90 for myself.
To be fair – that is something that God commands us not to do. The 7th Commandment is “You shall not steal.” Meaning that those who are stealing, really do put themselves in danger of being far from God!
This trifecta of reasons led to a perfect storm of a sinful lifestyle.
A lifestyle that convinced the religious leaders tax collectors were FAR from God.
A lifestyle that convinced the community that they were FAR from God.
A lifestyle that convinced the tax collectors themselves, that they were FAR from God – and could never get close again.
As he counted his money at the tax table and mentally made note of how many shots he would be able to buy down at L’chiam’s Bar and Grill – and whether or not that was enough to wash away the loneliness and guilt that permeated his everyday life…
I doubt that the religious leaders approached him.
They turned up their noses.
They shook their heads.
They whispered loudly enough for others to hear: “That man is a sinner. The scum of the earth. A lost cause.”
I doubt that Levi had often been approached by religious leaders.
Levi saw him across the street setting down the tea that he had just sipped at the local restaurant.
He had heard Jesus speak before. Not in the synagogue – he wasn’t really allowed there – but on the streets.
Jesus knew what he was talking about.
Jesus was a religious leader.
Jesus was close to God.
Jesus was on his way over.
Levi tried to look busy counting money. Bracing himself for Jesus to wag his finger and tell them how much of a sinner he was for all to hear – almost like a living object lesson for the community of worshippers that had gathered.
But Jesus didn’t wag his finger.
Jesus extended his hand:
“Follow me,” Jesus said to him.
And Levi got up and followed him. (v27-28)
And the religious that were watching this started to throw a fit!
“What was he doing? Did he support tax collectors?
Did he support their sin?
Did he support greed and debauchery and deception and sexual immorality that all of the tax collectors stood for?
How could he, a so—called religious teacher, get anywhere near someone so sinfully disgusting!”
But that wasn’t the end of it.
A short time later, Levi held a banquet for Jesus at his home and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. (v.29)
And even if Levi is starting to act a bit more godly at this point – I doubt that the other tax collectors were. So, don’t picture a real polite, nice dinner meal where everyone is wearing religious jewelry and remembering to pray before anyone takes a bite.
It’s a lot shadier than that.
Picture cigar smoke as Lenny tries to show off the expensive cigar he bought from somewhere down south all with the money he had stolen on his last collection day.
Picture cheap perfume permeating the air from Patsy, the prostitute. She’s the girlfriend…well, that Nahum pays to be intimate with him, rubbing his big muscles and smiling flirtatiously at the disciples.
Picture the faint smell of alcohol – becoming less faint as Dave the drunk approaches. He’s drowning in the smell of Jim Beam because it’s the only way that he gets rid of that void.
Picture a seedy meal filled with a who’s who of sinners.
Which is why the spiritual leaders are losing it! They complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” (v.30)
Why do you get so close to the filthy, spiritual vermin?
Why do you befriend…sinners?
And Jesus overhears them.
He pauses his conversation.
He stands from the table.
He approaches the leaders.
And says this:
“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (v.31-32)
Do you get it?
It’d be like Julianna having a headache. One of those awful, nasty pounding migraine headaches. It’s so bad that she can’t move and she lays down on the couch. And I run to Walgreens. I pick up some Advil, a bottle of Aleve and some essential oils. I get back to the house. She’s still in pain but is happy to see me.
I go to the faucet.
I fill a glass of water.
I open up the bottle of aspirin.
She holds out her hand.
And I down the aspirin myself.
It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. (v.31)
And it is not the sinless who need a Savior from sin, but sinners.
This is why Jesus came.
And if you are a sinner.
If you have big sins from 2018.
If you had a sin you struggled with throughout 2018.
If you had a sin that you’ve already brought with you into 2019…making you a sinner!
Jesus came for you.
II. a FRESH perspective
Jesus’ words and actions in this account throw our preconceived notions about our relationship with God into a tizzy. (Honestly, I don’t know what a tizzy is; but these words certainly turn our conceptions around).
1) God is for the Righteous Sinners
That’s how we normally think. In the same vein as those religious leaders, we think – God is only for the “Righteous.” He’s only for the people who wear crosses around their neck; the people who have never missed a worship service; the people who share three inspirational Scripture memes a day. The people that look like they’ve got it all together! The “professional” Christians.
But that’s not accurate.
If God was only for the righteous, then God is not for any of us, because none of us are righteous!
In fact, that’s the most ironic thing about the Pharisees dismissal of Jesus’ behavior. They say, “Why do you eat with sinners?” Jesus could have responded:
You’re right. I shouldn’t. I am the sinless Son of God. I will no longer eat with sinners. So, let’s cancel our dinner date next Thursday, because you’re sinners, too.
God didn’t come for the righteous, but sinners. And he didn’t just come for sinners; he died for them. Look at this passage from Romans 5:5-8 “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
That is God’s love for sinners.
That is God’s love for you.
If you think you are too steeped in sin that God could never have a relationship with you, you’re wrong.
Jesus lived perfectly, died innocently and rose triumphantly to restore his relationship with you.
And now!?! He calls you righteous! Since we have now been justified…That means “Declared innocent,” “Forgiven,” declared “righteous” by his blood. And that’s a lot more powerful than pencil, more powerful than a blue pen. More powerful than a sharpie. It’s the divine blood of Jesus himself! how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! (v.9)
Because our relationship has been restored.
Because your relationship has been restored.
Because your relationship with God is FRESH. Apart from sin. Apart from the guilt of last year.
Apart from the guilt of the last hour.
You are steeped in his love.
You are forgiven.
2)God is the One who Waits Seeks
A second switch has to do with God’s activity in bringing this message of forgiveness. Because, to be fair, He had already done a lot! Coming to earth, battling sin, and dying for sins seems like a lot of work! We might expect Jesus to go back to heaven, grab his favorite Lazy Boy, turn on the latest Jim Gaffigan Netflix special and wait for us to come to Him.
And sometimes that’s how we view getting closer to Him!
I need to try harder.
I need to seek harder.
I need to say prayers with my eyes winced and my fists clenched, mustering all the sinful seeking that I possibly can to get him to pay attention to me!
But God isn’t a God who waits.
God is a God who seeks.
Think about it! Levi wasn’t seeking anything. Levi was literally at his table, counting his money, doing his normal, everyday tax collector things. Then, Jesus went out to him! Jesus called him to follow. Jesus did the seeking!
And God doesn’t get tired.
God keeps seeking.
Even today. Even with you.
Even if you’ve been far away from God.
Even if you’re really, really, really good at hiding!
It’s not playing Hide and Seek with your cousins. Did this ever happen to you? You find a really good hiding spot. You stay super quiet. You hear them walk by talking as they try to find you. Then, it gets quiet. And you stay quiet because “they could be tricking me.” And you stay quiet for 10, 20, 30 minutes. Until…eventually you realize. They aren’t coming to find you. They gave up seeking you.
God doesn’t give up seeking you.
God hasn’t given up seeking you.
God is seeking you.
With these words.
3) God’s Message Belongs Among the Righteous Sinners
This leads to the final perspective change. Because the religious leaders felt that God and his message only belonged among those people that already knew it. It belonged in the synagogue. It belonged amongst their clique. It belonged among their very own, special, “we look religious” club.
But that’s not what Jesus did.
He brought the message outside that religious clique.
He brought that message to sinners.
He brought that message to a lot of sinners.
And he asks us to do the same.
Right before Christmas with the staff here working at Precious Lambs -- we had a challenge to see who could bring the most Christmas Eve worship invitations to parents, family and friends who don’t have a Christmas Eve worship place. It’s part of our “Planting the Message of Jesus in the Heart of North Raleigh.”
And after I explained it to the staff – a couple of them laughed – and immediately began inviting each other to worship.
One of them invited me. (I told them I was busy).
It was humorous, but sometimes that is all too real the way that we approach sharing Jesus.
I’ll invite my church going friend.
I’ll share the Gospel with my Gospel believing coworker.
I’ll tell others about Jesus …as long as I’m already at worship.
This isn’t a bad thing. Christians need encouragement, too.
But it’s not what Jesus calls us to do.
He wants us to take that message to the fringes of society.
To the homeless.
To the drug dealer.
To the drunkard.
To the guy struggling with his sexuality.
To the porn addict.
To the porn director.
To the dirty politician.
To the vehement atheist!
God calls us to bring the message of his love to them. Because that’s where his message needs to be.
As a church that’s our FRESH start for the year. We need to plant the message of Jesus in the hearts of North Raleigh and by North Raleigh we don’t just mean within these walls.
We mean outside of them, too.
Like Levi! After Jesus comes to him, after he fills him with grace and forgiveness, what does he do? He holds a party! He invites friends. He invites Jesus. He brings Jesus’ message directly to others that he knew needed it so badly.
God is calling you and me to do the same.
To hold our own banquets.
To bring the message of Jesus to the people that we might think will NEVER like the message of Jesus!
To understand this FRESH perspective – and not to see the religious and irreligious – but sinners in need of their Savior’s love.
We talk about getting a fresh start – and if you’re trying to get a fresh start on your health, there might be a lot of things that you are told to do.
To get a gym membership.
To use that gym membership.
To eat only greens.
To eat organic.
To drink 8 glasses of water a day.
To get 8 hours of sleep.
To make healthy choices all day long.
It’s easy to think the list for a FRESH connected to Jesus would be just as long!
But it isn’t.
It’s as simple as the two words that Jesus spoke to Levi:
Follow me and be REFRESHED with the message of my forgiveness.
Follow me and get a FRESH start as my child.
Follow me and feel the FRESHNESS of my love on a daily basis.
It’s simple really. You want a FRESH start in 2019?
Follow your Savior. Amen.