It’s getting very close.
A night full of the scariest things you’ve ever seen.
A night that you might cover yourself with a blankie as you watch spooky things on TV.
A night filled with treats, and quite a few tricks.
Yep, it’s almost time…for Election Night.
(Did you think I meant Halloween?)
I guarantee that there are many more people fearful of the Election than Halloween this year. Halloween is make believe. People wear masks. But the Election is real life! What will happen? How will we survive if so-and-so is president? Is this the end of America?
Today our goal is to take a look at God’s Word and we want to do 2 things: (1) see why it is this election is not nearly as scary as some websites would have you believe and (2) see how it is Christians should react to whoever is president next. But before we study God’s Word, let’s say a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see. Open our ears to hear what you want us to hear. Open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. A Not-So-Scary Night
I direct your attention to Romans 13. Romans is a book that a disciple named Paul wrote. It was actually a letter to Christians and future Christians in Rome. In fact, it’s a good letter for all Christians. It talks about sin and our Savior. Then, it discusses Christian living. Finally, in Chapter 13 – there’s this directive about the government:
Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. (v.1)
Take a look at that word “authority” to start out with. Authority means to “be in charge of” or “to have power.”
There’s a lot of different authorities in this world. There’s the “authorities” as in police officers and highway patrol. In each family, parents have authority – although sometimes husbands joke that the “wife” has authority. You might have authority at work to do some things that others can’t and you might not be able to do some things that others can.
There’s lots of different authorities. Even in the government. There’s the President of the United States. There’s the Vice President. There’s the governors and senators and representatives – there’s the mayor and district representatives and even the city clerk! They are all very different in size of authority, shape of authority, and form of authority.
But they also have one thing in common.
There is no authority except that which God has established.
Have you ever seen ‘est’d.’ on the front of a building? Usually it’s on cornerstone – or in some easy to see spot. It means this is when the building was made and this is who paid for it. We’ve got a plague in the hallway that says something similar about our fellowship hall. Maybe we’ll have something like that for the new Precious Lambs building.
Do you understand what Romans 13:1 is saying? If someone is in authority – no matter where the authority is – no matter when the authority is – no matter how the authority is – God is the one who set it up. Because God is the ultimate authority.
And that means – that on the morning of November 9th – we will know who is in control.
No matter who wins the election. No matter who becomes President of the United States (POTUS). No matter who is elected – you can envision a little ‘estd’ on the name badge above their breast pocket.
Established by God.
Do you believe that? Imagine for a minute that it’s November 9th. You are waking up the day after the election and after you grab your coffee and you read the headline on the newspaper OR the tweet on your phone – the other candidate won.
Not the one you voted for – who you maybe didn’t even like all that much – the candidate that you didn’t vote for because you were terrified of that candidate becoming president.
How do you react?
Add a little spike to your morning coffee?
Immediately tweet about how America is over?
Do you go online and start searching for the price of houses in Canada?
When less than 40% of America is behind a candidate, November 9th is bound to be a scary day. Someone will be in authority that more than 60 percent of the country doesn’t even want!
We'll start thinking!
This is because our no-good country elected that person.
This is because of the no-good media.
This is because other countries interfered.
This is because it’s rigged.
Some – or all of that might be true. But there’s a bigger, deeper reason behind the Next President.
Romans 13:1 again: There is no authority except that which God has established.
II. God’s Choice
But that’s hard. Because it means that whoever gets elected on Election Day, will do so under God’s authority!
And if we were to end the sermon there, you’ll probably leave thinking:
That was crazy. Because if so-and-so wins, that one is an awful no good unbeliever – How could God be behind that?
To be fair: It was hard for the people who were hearing this message originally. Because at that time, the Roman government was in charge. The Roman government was the authority. The Roman government wasn’t Christian. In fact, Romans didn’t like Christians all that much. Romans viewed Christianity as a cult that would lead to a revolution and loss of authority for the Roman government.
One of the worst offenders was a guy called Nero. He’s gonna show up very early in the history of the Christian church – shortly after the letter to the Romans is circulated. Nero hated Christians. There are accounts and records of Nero burning Christians at the stake and throwing them into the Lion’s Den. Christians were probably very wary of the Roman government and very nervous about what it might bring them!
Then, they read this letter form Paul. I bet they thought: Here’s the section about government. I can’t wait to read it. I can’t wait for him to tell us about how we should fight back against Roman soldiers. I can’t wait to read about how we should burn Nero’s palace down. I can’t wait to hear about how this is all a bit misunderstanding and God will give us a new ruler soon.
So…let’s see. It says, “The authorities that exist have been established by God?”
Is this a typo?
But this must be true! If we believe in an all knowing, all powerful, all incredible God, then we believe he has all authority. Otherwise you make him into some feeble, old ruler who can’t prevent his own overthrow or some non-caring, jerk, who doesn’t care about you.
God establishes authority.
And no, we don’t always know why God establishes the government that he establishes. If you look at Bible history, there are some reasons that are explained --
(1) Sometimes it’s for good order. To keep believers and unbelievers and people of different cultures, races, belief systems and backgrounds from beating each other up.
(2) Other times it’s for prosperity. God used kings like David to bring prosperity on the nation.
(3) Sometimes? It’s for discipline.
Take Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar was a Babylonian ruler. He didn’t know God. He didn’t care for God. He didn’t consult God. But God used them. He used them to punish his people. He used them to bring them to their knees. He used them to discipline his children and bring them back to faith in him.
Here’s the truth. We don’t know why God establishes the authorities that he does. But we do know that whatever the reason – It’s for our eternal good.
Check out this passage from the same letter to Rome – “All things work for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
Here’s a second truth: We don’t know why God will establish the authority that he does on November 8th. But…we do know that whoever he established, “All things – including the American election – will for your good.” For your, eternal good.
Like Pontius Pilate. He was a Roman. He didn’t care a lick about the Jewish people. He could be harsh and uncaring – like the time that he allowed an innocent man to be crucified on a cross just so that he wouldn’t lose his authority.
But God had a purpose. An eternal purpose. Your eternal purpose.
That innocent man that he killed just happened to be the Son of God – Jesus Christ. The one of whom it was prophesied, would die on a cross. (Isaiah 53) A cross that the no good, unbelieving, Roman government used as a punishment.
God used Pontius Pilate to fulfill his plan.
God used the Roman government to sacrifice the Savior.
God used those authorities – to save you.
God will use the next president for your good—your eternal good.
III. What Now?
Because there might be a Next President that you don’t like. A president that you don’t trust. Even if you vote for that person, you might not trust them.
But Trust God.
It doesn’t matter what earthly person is in authority, they can’t out-authority God.
They can’t take away the salvation that Jesus won for you on a cross.
They can’t pass a law that says "You aren’t forgiven."
They can’t change legislation to make you into an enemy of God.
They can’t amend history and keep Jesus from dying and rising from the dead.
God is in control.
So…here’s what I think you should do. Before you open up your newsfeed on November 8th. Before you check Facebook or the news. Before you watch the news later that night after you vote --- Open the Bible. Find Psalm 46. Read “God is our Refuge and strength and ever present help in trouble; Therefore we will not fear, though the earth quakes and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea. God says, “Be still and know that I am God.”
2) Don’t Rebel
Ever had a babysitter? Me too. I, like many young boys, didn’t think that I had to listen to my babysitters. In fact, one of my first babysitters – I refused to listen to. I stayed up late. I jumped on my bed. I ate way more cookies than she said I could have. I rebelled against her authority and I thought that it wasn’t a big deal. I figured if I wasn’t disobeying my mom and dad, then it was okay.
I was wrong.
The same is true with the next president: if you rebel against whoever it is – you’ll be rebelling against God. Look at what it says in verse 2, “Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.” You’ll have to answer to God.
You might be thinking, “I’m not gonna rebel. I’m not gonna grab a sign and go downtown to picket…because I don’t know where to buy picket signs.”
But that’s not necessarily rebellion. Rebellion means “to go against authority.” To attack; to fight against; to tear down.
So here’s something to ask yourself about your action. Is it building up? Or tearing down?
Ask yourself. Is this email joke really building anybody up?
Is this SNL skit just attacking someone?
Are my swear words really a blessings?
Is this illegal way that I’m trying to not pay so many taxes, really supporting our government?
Not so much? Then, you’re rebelling. Against authorities and God.
3) Give Respect.
Instead, give what you owe the next president. Look at what Romans 13:6 says, “Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.”
Instead, give respect. Give honor. Give prayers. Give kind words.
And if you’re having a hard time doing that – please look at God! Because God is the one who established that person. I know you want to give glory to God. He won salvation for you; he forgave you; he loves you; and he’ll take you to heaven.
Treating his representative with respect is treating God, your Savior, with respect.
4) Remember Where you are “of”
In John 17, Jesus says this about his disciples, “They are not of the world any more than I am of the world…Protect them from the evil one.”
Because the truth is, we are in this world. While we are in this world, we will always have sinful human leaders. Because there are only sinful, human leaders to choose from.
While you can’t avoid that, you need to remember that you are more than that. You are in the world; but you aren’t of it.
Be different this election.
When others are frightened, be confident.
When others are complaining, give praise.
When others are planning rebellion, show respect.
When others think the world is following apart, show them God’s World and how he put you back together.
No matter what's going on -- remember that your kingdom is not of this world.
Your kingdom is God's kingdom.
That kingdom is above.
Did you watch the latest Presidential debate?
Call me old fashioned, but I remember a time when candidates talked about issues and policies and how they would address those issues and policies. This latest debate?
Here’s why you’re terrible.
And here’s why you’re terrible.
And here’s why you’re even more terrible -er.
It seemed a bit more like I was watching an episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians.
I don’t think I’m alone. According to the latest polls, neither candidate has a majority. In fact, they are barely hovering around 40%. That means – the eventual winner will have more than half the country against them! It’s is going to be one of the largest third candidate votes in American history. Time and time again – I see people’s reason for voting for Hillary or Trump as – They’re bad – just not as bad as the other one.
What’s a person to do?
What’s a Christian to do?
Who should we trust to make our lives better?
Today we are continuing our series called God & Country. We’re looking at the Christian and voting. I wanna say right off the bat: I am not endorsing any candidates. You can give me a lifetime supply of Nacho Cheese Doritos and I’m not endorsing any candidates. I’m a pastor; not a politician. I care about spiritual -- way more than temporal.
Yet there’s a spiritual aspect to casting a vote. Because there’s trust involved in casting a vote.
Today we want to look into God’s Word and see (1) who should we trust while casting our vote and (2) what principles do we keep in mind while voting. But before we study God’s Word, let’s say a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see. Open our ears to hear what you want us to hear. Open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. Voting & Trust
Our lesson for today comes from 1 Samuel 8. That's actually before where we were last week in our God & Patriotism lesson. It's before David was king. In fact, it was before Israel even had kings or a human government.
Which is what makes this biblical studying on voting for a political candidate difficult. There isn’t any democracy in the Bible. Democracy is relatively new. In the Old Testament – most governments were Monarchies – that means – they were governments run by kings.
But not in Israel. Not in 1 Samuel. At that time Israel was different. Israel was run by a theocracy. Theos is the Greek word for "god." That means a theocracy is a government run by God. Literally. God, their heavenly Father, was actively involved in the government of Israel.
He would give guidance to a leader -- Moses or Joshua -- who would then lead the Israelites in battle and citizenship -- How to live, what to celebrate, what's good and what's bad. This system went well for Israel as long as they listened to God. When they listened to him, they were blessed. When they didn't listen to God, they were in trouble.
The same thing happened when Samuel (the person for whom the book of 1 Samuel is named) became the go between for God and the people. Things went well. The Israelites had been in captivity, but after Samuel led -- they were not.
People were generally happy with this theocracy.
Until one day….
…Samuel heard a rock tumble down his gravel walkway. He looked up from his morning devotion and went to the front window: A group of men was walking up his driveway. He recognized them. They were leaders from various tribes and various families in this Israelites nation. A congress of elected officials – that was neither elected nor official.
Samuel went to the front door to let them in. It was always good to see them. Together they enforced God’s Will. They helped pass on God’s Word of wisdom. God talked to Samuel; Samuel talked to these men; these men talked to the people.
Together they guided Israel.
And it worked! 30 some years earlier, Israel was a broken mess. Various sections of the country had splintered off and been captured by the Philistines and the Amorites. They were oppressed, taxed, and beaten. But, after the country repented and listened to God’s leadership through Samuel – Israel was at peace. The country was restored. The nation was blessed and had been for years.
Maybe the guys are here to talk about the good old days OR maybe they want me to speak at a high school graduation again.
But the people didn’t come for high fives.
They weren’t bringing him a gift of appreciation.
They didn’t even want to take selfies with him.
v.5 “You’re old." You’re not young. It’s a new era; a modern era. You don’t connect with the younger generation anymore. You can’t keep up like you used to. You should be in the hall of fame; not on the front lines.
"You’re sons aren’t like you." They aren’t. They just want money and they only care about themselves. They aren’t doing a good job doing the legwork for you.
"Appoint a king to lead us, just like all the other nations have."
Samuel’s smile faded. He nodded and listened as they spoke. “OK, Ok. I hear you.” But his heart wasn’t in it. Why were they rejected him? Was it something he said? Was it something he did? Was he not wearing the right clothing? Did he need a new hair style?
Samuel excused himself for a moment. He went out back to a private room. He got on his knees and he prayed to God. God, is this right? Should I listen to them? God why are they rejecting me?
God responded – with one of the truest statement Samuel had heard in a long time.
v.7 Samuel…It is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.
Do any of you know who Chumbawamba is? They’re a one hit wonder from the nineties. But…I remember back when I was a preteen, all of my classmates were obsessed with Chumbawamba’s number 1 hit song: Tubthumper. It goes “I get knocked down, but I get up again; you ain’t ever gonna keep me down.” (Sound familiar?)
So here’s what I did. I found a BMG Music ad in the newspaper. I ordered the Chumbawamba CD. I had to order another 10 CDs (based solely on whether or not I had heard my classmates talking about them) and I spent my whole allowance to get them.
The CD came. And Tubthumper was alright…the other songs? Awful.
All so I could be like the other kids.
Essentially that’s what the Israelites were wanting. They were willing to give up the leadership of their holy, perfect, all loving, never failing, completely on their side, miracle making God – all for the sake of being like the other nations.
They wanted someone they could see.
They wanted someone that was like them.
They wanted someone who was invested in the human race.
They wanted to be like other, sinful, godless, heading toward hell people.
But then again – this is what Israel had always done. For years, they had been rejecting God’s rule. For years, they had been doing the opposite of what God said. For years, they had been appearing to follow God – but really following sinful human beings.
God and Samuel finished their campaign meeting. Samuel returned to the Israelites with some talking points. He had a chance to debate; to give a final warning as to why God was a way better leader than a human being. His defense is found in verses 10-18, but here are the highlights:
1) Take your kids and make army fodder. Instead of having the hand of God doing the work for you, protecting you and keeping you safe, he’ll grab your sons. They’ll be maimed and die in battle. And it won’t always be for your best interested. It’ll be for the king’s interest and the king’s legacy. For his own, selfish, human reasons.
2) You’ll lose your freedom. You won’t be able to choose your lifestyle and choose your occupation. If the king needs a farmer, you’ll be a farmer. If the king needs a baker, you’ll be a baker. If the king needs a outhouse repairman, you’ll be an outhouse repairman. He won’t keep in mind your desire and dreams for this life – he’ll give you a job…for his own, selfish, human reasons.
3) The Taxes… Oh the taxes will increase. You’ll give up a portion of your food and your goats, and your oxen and chicken, and everything that you have. Some will go to protect you, but once that king gets a taste of wealth, the majority of taxes will not happen to improve your life, they will happen for the king’s own, selfish, human reasons.
4) You’ll be slaves. Because eventually, eventually someone will become king whose sinful, selfish human reasons overtakes his policies. He’ll make you serve him – not your country and not yourself. He’ll be filled with vengeance and a complete disregard for you – and you shouldn’t be surprised! That’s what sinful, selfish, human beings do!
And you’ll call out to God for help. You’ll regret the decision you are making right now. But, v.18 the LORD will not answer you.
The Israelites thought about it.
They pondered it.
They deeply considered the thoughts of their holy, perfect, all knowing God.
…for about 2 seconds.
v.18 “No! We want a king over us! We want to be like the other nations.”
Did you see the problem? The Israelites trusted humanity more than God. Soon, they’d put their trust in Saul – their very first human king – more than God.
It’s foolish to do.
God is holy; humans are sinful.
God is all loving; humans love themselves first.
God is all powerful; humans are weak.
God is all knowing; humans know whatever their very biased advisors tell them to know.
But this trusting of humans more than God is something that was happening back then…
…and is still happening now.
Who do you trust this election?
Hillary? Donald? Do you trust Jill or Gary or Scott?
Are you panicking because you don’t trust any of them?
Do you expect a president to completely change your life?
To fix your problems? To fix your money situation? To improve your job and heal your health issues?
If you do, your trust is in the wrong place.
Hillary Clinton will not fix your life.
Donald Trump will not make your life great again.
A third party candidate will not put your life in the right direction.
The only one who can do that; is not on the ballot.
Isaiah 43:11 says this, “God is the Lord and there is no other Savior.”
Cause when you look at our lives apart from God – there’s been a Great Recession.
And you know how good candidates are at lying? We’re good at it too. Telling ourselves “I’m fine. Everything’s great. I have no spiritual problems.”
But we’re wrong. It’s a mess. And it's beyond any human being!!
But it isn't beyond God.
Here’s the truth:
Your Savior isn't on the ballot; he's on the cross.
To be fair, this may not mean that you make more money. It may not mean that your health care payments go down. It may not mean that you get all of the benefits that you t think you deserve.
But what you’ll get; is beyond your wildest imagination.
Jesus said this, “My kingdom is not of this world.” That means he’s concerned with your life on this earth, yes, but he’s even more concerned with your spiritual, eternal life in heaven. His decisions, when it comes down to one or the other, are always going to be in favor of your heavenly glory.
Because that's better.
Because that lasts.
Because that's how He fixes this broken world.
Because that's how He fixes this broken you.
II. Principles for this Election
Jesus is the only Savior. But he's also not on the ballot. I'm not suggesting that you write in his name. (He wouldn't take the job and sadly, he probably wouldn't win anyways).
What are you to do? What does the Bible encourage us to do in an earthly election? Keep in mind that the Bible doesn’t exactly address voting. Democracy isn’t a part of the Ten Commandments and it was never a part of Israelite government. There's not even a mandate to vote! But there’s a few Biblical principles that I think you should keep in mind.
The Bible tells us to pray continually. It doesn’t say, “Pray continually until an election comes up; then stop praying and start making decisions on your own without seeking God’s help.” Nope. God tells us to pray about big things and little things – to help grandma get over cancer and to help me do well on this 10 question math quiz.
The presidential election fits under the category of things to pray for.
Won’t you keep it in your prayers?
Pray for God to bless America.
Pray for God to bless your heart.
Pray for God to guide you toward the best decision that you can make.
2) Use the Wisdom God gave You.
That really has a twofold meaning. The Bible says that God made us "Fearfully and wonderfully." Therefore, we should use that wonderful mind that God gave us and the wisdom he bestowed on us.
But also he gave us wisdom beyond that. Wisdom within his Word.
Now, there is not a Bible book called. “2nd What-to-Do-in-the-2016-American-Presidential-Elections.” It just isn’t there. That means this will take some time. You'll need to learn about the candidates and then search in God's Word for what a godly leader looks like. You'll find examples of godly leaders and godly characteristics of leaders. You'll learn godly morals and godly mandates.
It takes some time, but it's worth it.
Don’t just do something cause all your friends are saying so on Facebook.
That’s what the Israelites did and it didn’t work out to well for them.
Take time to think about the issues and vote using the wisdom God gave you.
DID YOU KNOW: There will be some friends, some family members, even some church members who vote differently in you?
Kick them out pastor! Right?
You do realize that every candidate in this election is a sinner?
Every candidate has sinful human reasoning?
Every candidate has sinful human motives?
There is no perfect candidate. If you’re going to disown a friend because they voted for a sinful candidate, then you’ll have to disown yourself.
Relax. Christians can make different choices for President; just as they make different choices for what type of car to drive and different choices for different types of chewing gum. You don’t need to crucify them or call them names. You don’t need to send them angry blog post after angry blog post.
You need to pray with them. You need to work with them.
You need to share God’s Word to them and with them.
And you have important work to do:
4) Move on.
Which leads to the final point – after you make your vote – move on!
Because God didn't call us to sit around and wring our hands and worry about our government. Nope.
God called us to share the Gospel of Jesus.
We’ve got way too important of work to keep doing together. We need to Gather to the Garden. We need to share Jesus with our community. We need to keep telling others about our incredible Savior, Jesus Christ.
And you need to be a part of that.
Here’s where God helps with that.
Because the more our trust is in him, the more we calm God gives us.
To be honest, this election is quite the opportunity for trust in God. Because if I think back to the elections that I can remember – people were voting because they were confident in the candidate to do the good job. George W. Bush will fix things. Barack Obama will fix things.
This year – They won’t mess it up as much as the other person.
Which means – when trust in the candidates is at all time low – we have an opportunity to place trust in God at an all-time high.
Put your trust in the Lord, the Only Savior.
Share your trust it the Lord, the Only Savior.
Maybe it’s happened to you.
You head to the living room because you hear some fighting. Your kids are wrestling each other. Fighting over who gets to use the iPad to play their game.
So you chuckle. Then you step in. You grab the iPad and tell them that neither one of them gets to use the iPad because they should love each other more than the iPad.
Then, you settle into your easy chair and you open up the YouTube section on your iPad to watch some funny cat videos. But your spouse interrupts you. She wanted to use the iPad to catch up on her Netflix show.
But I was using the iPad first.
But don’t you love me.
Yes, but I can love you and not give you the iPad.
But if you don’t give me the iPad that’s not very fair.
But you’re not being very fair by trying to take it from me.
But you’re kinda mean.
And you’re kinda a jerk.
And the kids come in and they have to separate you.
It’s not an uncommon scenario. Insert anything or any ‘stuff.’ I only used iPad because it’s a fairly, common, problem causing 21st century thing or stuff.
Do things and stuff really make life better? Is the solution just to get another iPad so everyone’s happier?
Let’s take a look at it in God’s Word this morning. We’ll see how important they really are. Before we do, let’s say a prayer:
Strengthen us O Lord by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see. Open our ears to hear what you want us to hear. Open our hearts to believe what you want us to believe. Amen.
I. Why Not Things and Stuff
Our Story actually starts with a family disagreement. Luke 12:13 says, “Someone said to Jesus, “Teacher tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”
Now we don’t know anything about whose fault it is. That’s all the intro we have. We don’t know what the inheritance was. We don’t know who was at fault. We don’t know if the brother stole it from him, if the dad only gave it to his brother or if the man talking to Jesus was trying to be deceptive and get what’s his. The Bible doesn’t say.
What we do know is that this inheritance – this property – this thing or stuff was important enough to the man to be a stinker about it.
But it wasn’t important enough to Jesus to make a ruling.
14 Jesus replied, “Man who appointed me a judge between you?”
Which is an interesting response. Because Jesus is the judge of heaven and earth. Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus is extremely fair. Jesus knows all things.
Think what it would be like to have Jesus judge the family disputes you had as a child. You could finally figure out who it was that ate the last piece of your birthday cake and mom can finally find out whose fault it was that her crystal vase got smashed to pieces.
But Jesus didn’t want anything to do with this judgment. Not because he wasn’t a good choice for judge.
But because this wasn’t good enough for him to hear.
15 “Be careful! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed. Life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”
Which is a pretty great warning from Jesus – From God himself. This stuff isn’t more important than your family. Stop thinking that it is.
But for some reason – I bet this man was probably reacting about the same way that we would react – “Yep. Family’s important. Yes Jesus. So…whose inheritance is it?”
So Jesus tells a story to get his point across.
The ground of a certain man produced an abundant harvest. (v.16) He was a wheat farmer which his crops fed himself. He lived off of the land. But there was so much that year he realized that he had all he would have all he needed for food that year. He had enough to make fresh pancakes for every breakfast, southern fried biscuits for lunch, and a fresh loaf of bread for every evening meal. He was set for the year.
The problem was that he still had grain left over. The silo that he had outback was filled to capacity. He only had one because all he had ever needed was one. What was he supposed do with all the excess?
He could give some to the widow next door.
He could give it to the local food bank.
He could help out his farmhand who had a young boy that he could barely feed.
But none of those were really what he wanted. He looked up. In the background, of his home was his barn. It wasn’t anything special. Red. Rustic. It housed what he needed, it got the job done.
But. What if it were more? What if he tore it done. What if he tore it down and rebuilt it – 2, 3, 4 times the size as before, with nice new paint, modern architecture, and the height to be seen by all of the town folk so that they could truly say: “Man that guy is awesome!”
So he got to work. He hired an architect. He hired a demolition crew. He hired contractors, carpenters, mason men, and painters. He watched with pride as his project got done. A project that would show his worth. A project for him to store his stuff. A project that would serve him well.
Finally the project was finished. He got excited to have a party. He invited his family, his friends, and all of the important people in town. He splurged on the finest catering, opened bottles of the finest wines, and prepared to have a party to celebrate his accomplishment.
And when he got to the door, his tuxedo pressed just right and his hair gelled in place. He was ready to “Eat, drink, and be merry.”
He heard a knock at the door. A party guest? He opened it.
Greetings – Great to have you –wait? – God!?!
And God said to him, “You fool! This very night you’ll die. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” (v.20)
Here’s the harsh reality. Things and stuff are not the point of this life. Things and stuff cannot make your life better. Things and stuff cannot fix your family.
But we still focus our lives on it.
All I need is…
….the latest iPad for my kid and he’ll love me.
…a new necklace for my wife and we won’t ever have marriage problems again.
…a bigger house for my family so we won’t feel so cramped and get on each other’s nerves.
…a trip to Disney World at the fanciest hotel and with the fanciest Princess party to bring your family together.
…more money and a higher pay grade so that you can get all these things and stuff.
If you think that things and stuff are what’s going to fix your life...you’re wrong. Badly wrong. Jesus said, “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.” (v.21) The “this” refers to “being without anything at your death.” It means without your luxury car and your diamond earrings to be sure – but also:
Without the riches of God.
Without God’s love.
Without his eternal blessings in heaven.
II. The One who Gives Things and Stuff
But if things and stuff won’t improve your family and make your life great than what will?
Ever seen a sparrow before?
A sparrow is a tiny little bird. It weighs about 2 ounces. They aren’t rare. There are tens of thousands of them in Raleigh alone. If you wanted to buy one at the pet store, it’d cost about a buck. It’s a fairly worthless thing and stuff.
But God cares for it.
This is a wild flower. It’s a fairly common flower here in Raleigh. Do you know what a common flower does for work? Nothing. It doesn’t have a W-2. It doesn’t have a job. It doesn’t work as a waiter or a construction worker. It doesn’t have a lot of things and stuff.
But God cares for it. He clothes it as beautifully as the high dollar section of Macy’s.
God didn’t die for sparrows. God didn’t die for wildflowers. God died for you.
If God died for you, don’t you think he cares about you? Deeply? In His heart? Things and stuff don’t care about you. Things and stuff are inanimate objects. But not God!
Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. (Luke 13:32)
God gave you a lot more than the early worm.
God gave you a lot more than a beautiful flowerlike outfit.
God gave you his kingdom.
Even if it cost Him everything that he owned! 2 Corinthians 8:9 says this, “Our Lord, Jesus Christ, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor that you might inherit his riches!” I love that passages. It describes how Jesus had all things. He owned all things – rubies, emeralds, and diamonds – lightning bolts, lava, and mountain tops.
But he gave it all up.
He gave it all up for a manger…for a pair of walking sandals…for an old, bloody cross…for a gravestone….
When he came bursting forth from the tomb on Easter, he brought with him eternal riches. He reached into his wallet full of forgiveness and passed out the exact amount that you needed. He adorned you with dazzling jewelry of peace with him. He put a crown of righteousness on your head that will never spoils, perishes or fades. He clothed you – in fresh, crisps, cooler than cool, hotter than hot, linens of eternal life in Him!
Here is the reality then. The greatest is not a thing or a stuff, but the greatest is the One who gives things and stuff.
God is the One who gives what you need to make families whole.
God is the One who gives what you need to be a part of his family.
And God is the most important One for you to spend your time seeking.
III. WHAT NOW?
But it’s nothing compared to God’s kingdom. God’s kingdom is filled with peace, forgiveness, reconciliation, eternal life, and the powerful love of the Lord! Scripture says, “Seek his kingdom.” His kingdom is found in Jesus Christ.
Seek Jesus like the world is seeking Pokemon.
If you want to improve your family, seek Jesus first.
If you want to improve your marriage, seek Jesus first.
If you want to be a part of a family, when your own family has disappointed you, seek Jesus first.
You don’t even have to go around town to do it. Not like Pokemon Go. The scavenger hunt is lots easier. I’ll tell you where Jesus is – in this Bible!
So keep that in mind with your family.
And listen in on the conclusion to that verse, “Seek his kingdom and these things will be given to you as well.” God’s not gonna give you less than you need. He’s going to give you all that you need. Clothing and shoes; food and drink; house and home; family! If you seek his kingdom first, he will not forget to provide you with all you need for this life.
2. Remember What Family Really Is
Psalm 127 says, “Children are a heritage from the Lord.”
Proverbs 31 says, “A noble wife who can find.”
Proverbs 1 says, “Hear my Son, your father’s instruction, for they are like a graceful garland for your head and neck.”
What do these passages have in common? A very important truth. Family is a gift.
Whether your family is biological or adopted or it's’ really only your church family – view family the way that God wants you to view family. As a very important gift from Him.
That means you’ll love them more than stuff.
You’ll treat them with tenderness and care like your most important stuff.
You’ll give up some of your stuff if it helps them.
3. Give a Lasting Gift
Have you ever bought your kids something expensive? Maybe an expensive pair of frilly boots from Nordstroms. About $200.
But you love your kids. You started scrounging for money. You sold some of your old jewelry. You gave up some of the money you were gonna spend on you. Your husband puts in a few more hours at work. You start selling LuLaRoe in all your spare time. Till you have enough money to go to the fancy aisle at TJ Maxx and pick out a pair on sale. You put it into a gift bag and surprise her with it one night at home.
She opens it up. You’re filled with excitement and…
…Oh these? This style isn’t in anymore.
That’s the thing with things. They don’t last. Things and stuff go out of style. Things and stuff spoil. Things and stuff fade. Things and stuff run out of battery power.
But Jesus doesn’t. If you give your kids Jesus, you’ll have given them all that they need for this life and all that they need for eternity.
Think about that when you bring them for Sunday school.
Think about that when you read them a Bible story.
Think about that when you are struggling to get them here for church.
Think about that when you are inviting your spouse to join you.
You aren’t just giving them a cup of Starbucks coffee in worship and a sugar cookie at fellowship.
You’re giving them eternal riches.
You’re giving the everlasting forgiveness for Jesus.
You’re passing on the crown of life.
You’re giving them some clothes that never go out of style – the righteous robes of heaven.
Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Matthew 6:21)
How true that statement is. If your treasure is things or stuff, that’s where your heart will be -- in things and stuff.
But if your treasure is in God, that’s where your heart will be – with God, in heaven. And if your treasure is also your family…then having faithfully shared the Gospel…there your heart, your family, will be also. Amen.
Today we’re looking at a time in Scripture where a few people felt all alone and completely outnumbered. It’s the next sermon in our series on Old Testament FaithTests As you listen, think about your life. Would you have trusted God in that situation? Do you trust God even when you feel all alone?
I. The Intrigue
This test is found in 2 Kings 6:8-17. Take a look at the background that verse 8 gives us. “The King of Aram was at war with Israel.” Now commonly in ancient battles warfare was a lot like you see it in the movies. One army lined up facing the other army. Then they would fight in hand to hand combat.
The king appears to have been getting creative in his warfare. Verse 8 continues, “After conferring with his officers, he said, “I will set up my camp in such and such a place.” He had in mind a surprise attack and was hoping to catch the Israelites off guard.
But it wasn’t working. Every time they went and hid behind a hill or in the forest…they would wait. And wait. And wait. The Israelites would never come.
Here’s why: 9 Elisha, the man of God, sent word to the king of Israel: “Beware of passing that place, because the Arameans are going down there.” 10 So the king of Israel checked on the place indicated by the man of God. Time and again Elisha warned the king, so that he was on his guard in such places.”
As you might expect, the Aramean king was getting upset. 11 This enraged the king of Aram. He summoned his officers and demanded of them, “Tell me! Which of us is on the side of the king of Israel?” He suspects a mole and begins a full scale investigation into who was leaking their tactical information.
But the answer surprises him. 12 “None of us, my lord the king,” said one of his officers, “but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the very words you speak in your bedroom.”
How did Elisha know?
It wasn’t because he had a spy camera. He hadn’t paid off an Aramean servant. He didn’t place a wire tap in the back room. Elisha knew because God informed him. He had divine information. The “little bird” that told him about the Aramean plot was none other than the Divine, All powerful, Eternal Lord of Heaven and earth.
It’s nice to have God on your side.
But the Aramean king didn’t give up. “Go, find out where Elisha is,” the king ordered, “so I can send men and capture him.” The report came back: “He is in Dothan.” 14 Then he sent horses and chariots and a strong force there. They went by night and surrounded the city.
II. The Test
The next morning Elisha’s servant awoke. I imagine he went about his daily business. Rubbed his eyes. Said his prayers. Combed his beard. Got dressed and walked outside to grab some water from the well. Maybe he was sipping his morning coffee, trying to get awake.
But something else woke him up before any caffeine would have an effect. 15 The servant of the man of God (saw) an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city.
Can you imagine the fright? The jumping of his heart? The terror that was in his mind? Here they were in a small city of Dothan. The Israelite army wasn’t near them. They didn’t have anything to defend themselves with. They were severely outnumbered.
He felt alone.
“Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?” the servant asked.
Elisha remained calm. “16 “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”
Can you imagine the servants response?
“Don’t be afraid!?! What are you talking about? We’re surrounded. They have chariots. They have horses. They have an army. We have a few buckets, a broom, and some seminary students. How can you be so calm? This is the perfect time to panic! We’re outnumbered. We’re alone!”
There isn’t really a word for “smirk” in Hebrew. But if there was, that might describe what Elisha did next.
17 And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. God’s divine army was on their side. Though it looked like they were alone, they never were. Angels were with them. Angel armies were with them.
GOD was with them.
III. What about You?
Ever feel like Elijah’s servant? Ever feel like you are all alone? Ever feel like the world has surrounded you and is all against you?
Maybe you’re a single mom trying to have a career, pay for school, and pay for doctor visits all alone.
Maybe you’re a college student far away from home and far away friends.
Maybe you’re surrounded by bill collectors asking for money you don’t have.
Maybe you live on a block where people of a difference race avoid you because of yours.
Maybe you’re the only one at work who’s Christian and all your coworkers love to remind you of it.
Maybe you’re a widower who spends long, quiet hours at home alone.
That’s about the time the devil comes along. He convinces you that you’re all alone. He whispers that no one cares about you and that you'll never get out of the jam you’re in.
When that happens. Remember these three truths:
1) God is Always With YOU.
I don’t have the same connection as Elisha did. God isn’t going to open up our eyes to see the flaming chariots of fire that are parked next to my Ford Explorer outside. Nor do I own any kind of X Ray scanner to show you where the angels are sitting right now in this church.
But that doesn’t mean God isn’t with you.
Remember the passage we read from Psalm 139. “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. 9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, 10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”
What’s the point? God is omnipresent. He is present everywhere. That’s what makes him God. When you’re downtown at night, God is there. When you’re alone on the weekend, God is there. When you’re up to your ears in bills, God is there. When you’re coworkers are making fun of your faith, God is there. When racism makes you feel ostracized, God is there. When you’re depressed, saddened, and you feel like giving up – DON’T! God is there.
2) GOD is Always With You.
I’ve gotta be honest. I feel more comfortable walking around with some people than others. If I’m downtown late at night, I’d rather have a 95 pound German Shepherd that can produce a mean sounding growl with me rather than my 20 pound puppy that runs underneath the bed because it thinks it heard a chipmunk.
Understand who it is that is always with you. It’s not your grandma. It’s not your nana. It’s not your childhood friend or the tough guy at your work. It’s not even a UFC fighter or a member of secret service.
It’s the almighty God and Father of this earth. It is the divine—earth creating Lord. It’s the one who destroyed the sin that surrounded your soul. It’s the one who conquered death! It’s the one who reigns on high and reigns in your heart. God Almighty is the one who is with you.
3) God is Always With Us.
Easter is coming up. Did you know that? 2 weeks away. Have I mentioned it?
We’ve got our sights set high. 4500 invitations mailed. 500 personal invitations passed out. 10,000 impressions on Facebook. A church jam packed for Easter.
How can we do that? We’re the tiniest church on Newton Road. Some people pass by and think we look like a Doctor’s office. We are approaching it, but still don’t quite average 100 people a Sunday. How can we possibly think we can affect the community with the Word of God?
We are not alone. We have God with us. We have God blessing us. With God’s blessing, we will share his Word in this hurting, lonely community.
Do you know someone who’s lonely? Someone’ who surrounded by negativity? Someone who is heartbroken by the guilt of their past. Someone who is surrounded by the constant reminders of their sin?
Be with them. Tell them God is with them. Tell them what Jesus did for them. Tell them about Easter.
I know you can get pumped about it, ready to do it, about to ask them, and then…the butterflies in our time frighten you and scare you away.
You’re not alone. God Almighty is with you. Amen.
“You’re the Christ! The Son of the Living God!” (Mt. 16:16)
The others stood around in shock. Yes. They had been thinking the same thing. The voice at his Baptism. The urgency in his preaching. The casting out of the demons. The healing of the sick. Jesus. was not an ordinary teacher, but none of them were bold like Peter to make that statement.
Jesus stood up. They looked on with anticipation and tension. Had Peter just spoken blasphemy?
But Jesus warmly smiled. “Blessed are you…this has been revealed to you by God!” (Mt. 16:17)
Then, Jesus sat down. He began to explain to all of this what this meant. He explained that he needed to head to go Jerusalem. While he was there, he would be arrested, he would suffer at the hands of the chief priests and teachers of the law, and then he would be crucified. He, the Son of God, would die.
Peter spoke again: “Never! You won’t die. You’re God’s Son. I won’t let it happen.” Surely, the other disciples nodded in approval. They just discovered and understood this awesome truth. They didn’t want to forfeit it away. Surely, Jesus would understand.
But Jesus got angry.
“Away from me Satan,” he said to Peter, “You don’t have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” (16:14)
Interesting isn’t it? The disciples had just identified Jesus as God. Then, they question his judgment. Had they already forgotten?
8 days later Jesus give them proof that he is God. Proof they wouldn’t forget.
I. On the Mountain
Mark 9 say this: Jesus led them up a high mountain. There he was transfigured before them
Back when I was shopping for an engagement ring for Julianna – it turns out -- there are many things about diamonds that I just did not know. They come in 8 different shapes, clarity can have many imperfections or even be FLAWLESS with ZERO imperfections. I learned that a carat is a weight, not simply a vegetable, and that each diamond has a different color. (They aren’t just diamond colored.)
There are lots of things to look for in a diamond! But perhaps the best thing to look for in a diamond is the “WOW” factor. Look for something that will take the breath of away of the one who takes your breath away.
When Jesus was transfigured, He took away his disciple’s breath – he did it in an otherworldly way. He declard himself as God.
It started with his clothes. Verse six says that, “his clothes became dazzling white.” That’s a pretty awesome Greek word. It means “shimmering’ and “shiny.” Elsa and Anna would be jealous!
But his clothes weren’t just white. They were “whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them.” Whiter than White out white. Whiter than Clorox white. Whiter than OxiClean white. Whiter than Sherwin Williams’ Absolute White or Pure White.
Ask yourself: Who alone can invent a new color? One long before the 64 pack of Crayola crayons? And never duplicated in today’s modern art? Why not the one who created color and the eyes that see color?
Jesus is God.
Matthew’s account tells us that Jesus’ face shone like he sun. Have you ever had that problem? Woke up in the morning only to be blinded by the radiance of your own face? I’ve had a zit here or there, but a blinding, otherworldly radiance of light?
Try as I might I can’t get it to happen. The only ones who can do so with CGI animation on IMAX theater movie screens – not on skin and bones.
Ask yourself: Who alone can cause skin to light up like the sun? Perhaps it is the one who created skin and sun?
Jesus is God.
Next a few friends join Jesus. Verse 4 says, “And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.” Which, at first glance, seems amazing in the fact that these two weren’t there before and now they suddenly appeared. A vaporation!?!
It wasn’t just any vaporation. These two men were very famous -- It would be like having dinner with President Obama and Michael Jordan. These were two very famous men. Moses had delivered the law that they read in their synagogues and posted on their doorways. He had given the Ten Commandments. Elijah was a very fiery prophets. He had defeated hundreds of prophets of Baal with the help of the Lord.
Moses stood for the Law and Elijah for Prophecy. What kind of money would it have taken to get these two there?
But the miracle is greater than just surprising the disciples with the appearance of two very famous men. Because Moses and Elijah were both hundreds of years old. Neither had been alive for hundreds of years. They had been in heaven.
Ask yourself: Who can have conversations with those in heaven? Who can take people out of heaven? Isn’t it the one who owns the gates of heaven Himself?
Jesus is God!
7 Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud – not from a loudspeaker, not from a microphone, not from a megaphone. It wasn’t even their friend Thomas hiding in the bushes, cupping his hands, and doing his best God voice.
This was the voice of the Father. Listen to what he says: “This is my Son, whom I love.” Which if you have been carefully following this sermon series is the exact same thing the Father’s voice from heaven spoke at Jesus’ Baptism. Jesus was his Son. He loved Jesus.
This is a big deal. It means Jesus was still succeeding in his mission. He still pleased the Father in every aspect of his life. He was still holy in his living. He still didn’t have any sin. He still had never done anything – not even a smidgens of something – that would make his Father say, “I am no longer proud of you.”
Remember God is Holy! If Jesus would have sinned, he would not have been proud. He would have condemned Jesus.
The fact that He still speaks so glowingly means that Jesus had lived up to God the Father’s standards. He had lived perfectly.
Ask yourself: How could Jesus do that if he was born a sinful human being like the rest of us? How could He live a holy life, if He wasn’t in fact holy himself? And how could He be Holy unless Jesus was…
Jesus is GOD HIMSELF!!!
We’re halfway through the sermon. What’s the application for you? What are you to learn? Jesus is God himself. He is not just a good teacher. He’s not just a shifty salesman. He’s not a good magician. He’s no myth. He’s no bedtime story. He’s no comic book hero. He’s no politician, money maker, or rebel rouser.
He is the Divine Lord of Heaven and earth and…he should…be listened to. He should be listened to where his words have been recorded for him to speak to our hearts:
II. …In His Word
Pay careful attention to what the voice of the Father from the cloud says next. He says, “This is my Son; whom I love. Listen to him!”
Do you think it made Peter tremble just a tad? A week earlier he had rebuked Jesus. “No, what you are saying is wrong. You will not be arrested. You will not die. You will not be a sacrifice.” At the time – that seemed like a good idea. Like he was stopping his friend from having a very bad idea.
Now in the presence of the blinding heavenly light, surrounded by men from heaven, and listening to the booming voice of the Divine Father – maybe – Peter was wishing he had been quiet.
He should have listened.
What about you? Do you listen to God? Or do you like to have knee jerk, Peter like reactions?
· Jesus, I hear you, but I think I know more about my life than you do.
· Jesus, you think that’s a sin? Haven’t you been on Twitter recently? Our society thinks it’s ok now.
· Jesus, I understand you’re point –as Lord of heaven and all, but I gotta make my own decisions.
· Jesus, thanks for the advice. I’ll take it into consideration.
Careful. If you ignore Jesus’ words, then you ignore his authority. If you ignore Jesus’ authority, then you ignore God’s authority. If you ignore God’s authority, then…well…BAD IDEA.
And if you ignore God’s Words in favor of doing what you want, then who are you really listening to? Who are you giving authority? Who are you setting up as God? Whether it’s subconscious or consciously aren’t you making yourself and your ideas into the ideas of God himself?!?
GUEST WHAT: The Transfiguration is not about the revelation that you are God. But it is about the revelation that JESUS IS GOD. Heed the Father’s advice. Listen to Him!
If you have ever ignored God, if you have ever rejected the Bible, if you have ever refused to listen to what Jesus says in Scripture, then maybe you feel like Peter, James, and John. Perhaps you feel like falling to your knees, face first, and pleading with God -- HAVE MERCY!
You need to listen to what Jesus would do shortly after this Mt. of Transfiguration. It’s what he had told his disciples he would do and what Peter had rejected: Mark 8: 32 -- Then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed…
Don’t look at this from the perspective of the suffering human being that the world saw in those first Lenten days. Instead, look deeper. Look at Him from the Mount! See that this is the Holy One – God Himself suffering for you. It his plan. It is his good plan. It is His Divine God plan for saving you. He would suffer for all of the times you have not listened to God.
Amazing isn’t it? God, whom you needed to listen to (and haven’t listened to), listened to you. He heard you cry for mercy from eternity. He heard your cry for help. He stepped out of his Heavenly throne to answer your call to save you.
But it was more than just a death. Take a look at the tagline at the end of verse 32 after three days Jesus would rise again.
Impossible, right? How could Jesus do that?
How about the same reason that he could turn his clothes heavenly white, shine his face like the sun, talk with two heavenly souls, and have the Father speak pleasure with his holy living?
JESUS IS GOD!
This is exactly what happened. Death couldn’t hold Jesus, because it couldn’t hold God. Death couldn’t hold Jesus, because Jesus was God and nothing is impossible with God! (Luke 1:37)
So…Listen to Jesus! Even when it seems impossible.
When he says, “Take heart. You’re forgiven.” Listen to him, He’s God.
When he says, “Peace be with you.” Listen to Him, He’s God.
When He says, “I know theplans I have for you.” Listen to him. He’s God. (Jr. 29:11)
When He says, “I’m always with you.” Listen to Him. He’s God. (Mt. 28:21)
When he says, “Whoever believes in me, will not perish, but have eternal life.” Listen to him. He’s God.
When he says, “I have a room in heaven for you.” Listen to him. He’s God.
Once you hear him speaking on the impossible, listen to him in the more mundane things of day to day life.
Listen to him when he tells you to abandon your sin. He’s God.
Listen to him when he tells you to hear his Word. He’s God.
Listen to him when he tells you to be baptized. He’s God.
Listen to him when he tells you to sing his praise. He’s God.
Listen to him when he tells you to pray. He’s God.
Listen to him when he tells you to gather at church. He’s God.
As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
This may have been the most difficult thing for the disciples to listen to. Think about what they had just seen. Think of the glory they had just seen.
But nowhere is it recorded that they told anyone about this until after he had risen from the dead. As hard as it was to do, they remembered who it was that was speaking to them. God himself.
Whatever God is asking you to do. Whatever God is asking you to believe. May you be like the disciples. Remember who it is that is asking you. See that Jesus is God.
"The Word became flesh."
Four words. Simple. Profound.
Take a moment. Think about it.
What Word is this? What Word became flesh? Is it the Word "Christmas?" "Present?" Is it: "Eggnog" or "Wiener Schnitzel?"
Or perhaps, (clear your throat for sounding super smart) "pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis."
It's not that simple.
John 1:1 contains a clue: In the beginning was the Word...
When we see the word, "Word" there we are talking about more than just language. It can't be quantified by English, Spanish, Yiddish or French. Those words weren't. They languages didn't even exist. But THE WORD, it always was:
In the beginning was the Word....
Note that it was not the literal word "God," floating around universe. Again English wasn't invented. Nor was Hebrew, so their word for God -- Elohim is right out too.
Besides that, words don't float. They need to be spoken. Written. Typed. Tapped. Signed. Or even texted!
The Word wasn't simply 'a word.' It was The Word.
John 1:1 explains, "The Word was God." His essence. His being. Who he is. ...and the Word was with God. It was with God in the beginning.
You hear two main points in that explanation. The Word was God. The Word was also with God. He is God and he is beside God at the same time.
This is a mystery explainable only in the Triune God himself. A mystery beyond our comprehension. Indescribable and epic, this can only be understood by the divine. The Word is God, yet the Word is beside God. John continues to tells us that he is the "light of the world" and that John the Baptist preached about him.
It becomes clear. The Word is the second person of the Trinity. Jesus.
Did you realize we were reading the Christmas story?
The Word became flesh.
Immediately, a few contradictions need to be made. Note the following:
The Word -- which is God himself-- did not become a theory to be debated.
God is not just some theoretic idea that is debatable amongst the greatest minds of our times. God isn't spending some time at a Duke lecture listening to a Professor of Archaeology match his thoughts on God against a Professor of the liberal arts who nods appropriately with the Evolutionary Science director who gives a high five to the Jewish rabbi that presented along the Islamic Imam.
God is not a theory to be debated. He exists. He is real. He is one. He is not a collection of the best of religions. He is not sitting up in heaven thinking: "I really like the way the Buddhist thinks of me. Now if only he would add that idea from the Catholic with that idea from the Humanist, then, I'd be really cool."
God is not created by our theories. God exists apart from us. Without us. God is real. God is not a debatable entity.
Also note: The Word did not become a poem to be mused upon.
Too often this is how we view God. A pick me up. A good luck charm. A Facebook post with a cool waterfall background and an inspirational verse in Lucida Font up in front.
God is not some kind of fairy tale. He isn't there for good advice and a witty quip on a calendar. He isn't the product of human imagination. He isn't just a word we use for good will and cheer. He isn't the opiate for the Masses. Something invented by human beings to make us feel better about this sad, lonely, gloomy life.
God is real. The Word is absolute. Allow Him to prove it by looking at what the Word -- God himself-- did become:
The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and only who came from the Father full of grace and truth.
God himself. The embodiment of the spoken Word. Love. Life. Being. God became flesh.
Understand what that means. God chose to take on a frail human body. Brittle bones. Breakable skin. A respiratory system that could develop allergies. Lungs that slowly breathe until they can no longer inflate. A heart that beats until it runs out of energy. Blood that runs -- tries to clot -- fails.
This incredible truth is clearly seen throughout Jesus' life. He sleeps. He eats. He cries. He walks. He talks. I imagine he even had to clear his throat once or twice. All human things.
Yet, he healed the blind. He made the lame walk. He cured diseases without medicine. He walked on water. Stopped storms. Brought back to life.
And he did it all with....words.
That's God stuff.
The Word, God himself, became flesh--a human being.
Well, what words might you use to describe humans?
"Hateful. Vengeful. Lonely. Depressed. Guilty. Frail. Aging."
God is entirely different from that:
"Loving. Uplifting. Innocent. Unassailable. Ageless."
Why would God give up all his grandeur and glory in order to take on human flesh?
The answer is simple. He needed to.
God needed to be God because God alone is perfect. Therefore, God alone could and would live perfectly. A prerequisite for life on this earth and a necessity for everlasting life in heaven.
But God already had that. Therefore, this perfect life, wasn't for him.
It was for you.
But in order to accomplish this, God also needed to die. He needed to take on what you deserved. He needed to take on your finality. He needed to take what you, a human, deserve and make it his own.
But how could God eternal, immortal, apart from time, life itself, die?
The Word became flesh.
In order to take our place and save us from the wrath of God our sins deserved, He needed to be God to live a perfect life without sin, yet he needed to be human to die. God wanted to be that sacrifice. God wanted to be that substitute. It was (and is) the only way! So he became flesh and began inching ever closer to that final breath on the cross thirty three years later.
The Word became flesh to die. The Word became flesh to save us.
But He is no longer in death. The Word brought truth to his promise of eternal life for all who believe in him. It's a promise that glows with certainly in the aftermath of the Word's death. A promise that fills us with hope as we see the Word's real human flesh return to life again at the Word of the Word's divine nature.
And now? The Word has some new words to describe you:
Maybe, you'll change the words you'll use to describe Him.
A sermon based on Luke 7:34-50
What do you suppose a Pharisee dinner party would have been like?
Pretty ritzy? After all, Pharisees were men who considered themselves the holiest of people AND the most qualified to handle the Scriptures. They dressed in the fanciest of holy clothing. They spoke with an air of 'impressed with myself"-ness.
Don't you think their dinner parties were similar. Only the finest non-pork meats served at just the right temperature. The aged wine was an expensive offering from a rich man looking for forgiveness from God. Everyone probably drank the wine from cups that allowed them to hold their Pharisaical pinky in the air.
I imagine Simon's party was no different. He invited the finest guests, the sharpest scholars and wisest minds in the greater Jerusalem area. Not only did it make them feel important to be invited to this event, but--even more-- it made him feel important to have such important people at his house.
That's why he had invited Jesus. He too was a scholar. A different breed, mind you, but a Bible scholar nonetheless. He didn't dress as fancy. Nor did he grow up immersed in their Pharisaical law 101 classes, but he certainly qualified as important. He had quite a following.
As these guests arrived, I'm sure Simon smiled. Smiled as he thought to himself, "Just look at all these people. Just look at how important I am. Rabbi Schweitz. Reb Tevye. Jesus, the Prophet. That fleusy Sadie from the back alley...the....
There. At Jesus' feet. Was a woman. Unimpressive. Disheveled. Her eyes were stained with tears. Her hair was stringy. Wet in clumps where she had been wiping up the tears from Jesus' feet. Her lips were shaking as they slowly kissed the tops of the good teacher's dusty sandals.
Simon was embarrassed. "What are you doing here? Why is this sinful woman in my house!"
Sinful woman, of course, is unnecessarily repetitive. Just like sinful man. Or sinful human. Because all humans are sinful. It's like saying "Wet water" or "delicious Doritos."
But the word "sinful" had taken a new meaning for this woman. It had become her identity. She was obviously guilty of some very public and very taboo sins that caused regular sinful people to feel the need to quantify her as sinful.
At the very least, she was guilty of sins that Simon, himself, would never be guilty of. (Or at least so he thought). Sins that a Pharisee would never be caught dead doing. Drunkenness. Drug abuse. Prostitution. Lesbianism.
Whatever it was...it had given her a bad reputation. Such that appearing at this type of party was social suicide!
And Simon knew it! "What's she doing over there anyway? This isn't that bar in the dark alley behind the marketplace! Her kind aren't welcome here. And she's kissing his feet? Is this her pathetic way of hitting on the good teacher? Disgusting."
But perhaps more disgusting to Simon was that Jesus wasn't reacting with disdain: "Surely, if he were a prophet, he would understand what type of woman was touching him." The logic was simple. Prophets are holy. They don't like unholy people. This person was unholy. If he were a prophet, he would know it and be repulsed.
But he wasn't.
In fact, Jesus called Simon over to him.
"Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?"
Simon replied, "I supposed the one who had the bigger debt canceled."
"You have judged correctly," Jesus said.
Then, he revealed his point.
"Simon, you invited me over here to eat. In our culture, when guests enter a home, it's customary to provide a bowl of water to wash off feet left dusty from the desert walk. You didn't do that. But this woman, she has used her very own tears to wash my feet and her hair to clean it off.
Simon, in our culture, it's customary for friends to greet one another with a kiss. You didn't do that to me. But this woman has been continuously kissing my feet...my dusty, stinky, smelly feet...since I came in!
Simon, in our culture, it is customary, especially among the finer guests, that the host anoint his guest's head with oil. It gets rid of the stink and musk of a long day's travel. You didn't do that. But she anointed my feet with fine perfume.
Here's the main point, Simon, You call her a sinner. And to be sure, she is one! In fact, she's sinned much! But she has also been forgiven much. Through faith in me,all of her sin has been forgiven.
This is why she's acting the way she is. She loves me. She's thankful. In other words, what you see as a nuisance and a distraction to your party, is actually a beautiful display of worship. It's her love for me...proof of the forgiveness that is hers!"
Now what about Simon? I'm gonna to assume he was like most of the Pharisees. They were much different from the woman. They didn't have any thankfulness to Jesus, because they assumed, wrongly, that they didn't have any sin.
So I picture Simon gritting his teeth. He had been upstaged by this Jesus. He felt foolish. He felt tiny.
But he would get revenge on Jesus. Maybe, what his Pharisee friends had mentioned wasn't so peculiar after all. Maybe, the only way to stop this Jesus, would be with death.
But Jesus had moved on. He was more concerned with the woman. Lifting her chin. His holy, loving, forgiving eyes met hers. And he reminded her of what she already had: "Your sins have been forgiven. You faith--not your works, but your faith in me--has saved you. Go in peace."
The account is touching. A brave woman. A haughty party. A spiteful villain. A forgiving Jesus. But what does it mean for us?
1. It reminds us that sin is terrible. It can ruin your social status. It can ruin people's perspective of you. It can fill you with guilt and despair.
Sin certainly ruins our relationships on earth.
But more than that, it ruins our relationships with God. Notice Jesus never accepted the woman's sin as not a big deal. In fact, he called it what it was. Sin. In fact he said much sin!
Would Jesus use that adverb when he was referring to your past? (He would for mine.)
2. God forgives sin.
This is what Jesus implied when he forgave the woman.
But, as the other party goers themselves wondered, "Who is this that he even forgives sins?"
This after all is the one who would live without sin! The only person in that party that really didn't need forgiveness from God! The only person, whom the Pharisees would be completely unable to pin a single false deed on.
Yet, he would die. Killed by these Pharisees. Killed by sinners.
Yet, hidden in their murderous attempt at his life, was the truth. The truth that because of Jesus' death, God forgives.
3. Think about this for you. Maybe you could compare yourself to the sinful woman. Maybe your sins are different, but just as haunting. Maybe you've done things that have made you a stench to your family. Or ostracized you in society. Or made you feel lonely at church. Maybe you've done the taboo. Maybe you feel like an outsider.
Think about your sin. Then think about your Savior. Think about your Forgiving God.
The words that Jesus spoke to the woman? He speaks to you after his death on the cross: "Your sins have been forgiven. Your faith has saved you. Go in peace."
Did you hear that? I'll repeat it: "Your sins have been forgiven. Your faith has saved you. Go in peace."
That's it. That's the kind of forgiveness our God has for all who seek it. Real forgiveness. Complete forgiveness. Done forgiveness. Sweet forgiveness.
Brothers and sisters, go and praise the LORD! Praise him with tears. With songs. With smiles. With gifts. With lives that live apart from past sins. However you do it, go and praise the Lord!
But, you know, Christians are kind of funny. We love and cherish that forgiveness is for us. But we have a hard time believing that forgiveness is for others.
Because the devil is tricky. It's easy for him to get us to think like Simon: "I can't believe that person is going to our church. I know he usually loves hanging out at the bar. " "I can't believe that person on Facebook is singing praise to God now. I grew up with them. I know the awful things he's done. He can't be a real Christian" "I can't believe this person is on our member board. Pastor, do we just let anyone in now?"
God's forgiveness is for all. And it belongs to all who believe in him. So why judge others for past sins?
Rather avoid Simon syndrome. Watch out for thinking that everyone else is a sinner and you aren't.
Instead, bow before God. Remember he is a God for forgiveness. Forgiveness for you and all of your sinful pride, but also a God of forgiveness for others too. Forgiveness for those of different cultures. Forgiveness for those with different sins. Forgiveness for people of all walks of life.
What incredible forgiveness is found through faith in Jesus! It's full. It's complete. It's all encompassing. It requires nothing but hearts that believe!God's forgiveness is something to glory in.
So...Glory in it.
But be prepared for that to be different too. Maybe even strange. (Think of the woman on the floor wiping Jesus' feet with her hair.) Because (here's a shocker) people are different. These different people give glory to God in different ways.
You may see someone clapping in church to praise God! Don't judge, but give thanks for faith in God's forgiveness worked in her.
You may see someone crying in church. Don't pull off the, "I wonder what that person did that was so awful!!" Instead, give thanks to God for the his forgiveness for her.
You may even see someone cross themselves in thankfulness for the Lord's forgiveness (gasp a Catholic thing). But don't you judge! Instead, give thanks to God for the forgiveness he has worked in that person too!
Brothers and sisters, glory in God's forgiveness.
Forgiveness, which was not only offered to the woman, but through faith it became her new identity: FORGIVEN.
Forgiveness, which is not only offered to us, but through faith in our Savior Jesus, it has become our new identity: FORGIVEN.
Give thanks to our forgiving God, oh forgiven children of God. Amen.