I’ve been experiencing some problems in my prayer life recently.
The things that I pray for don’t seem to be happening.
This has been going on for years!
I prayed for a pony when I was younger; never happened.
I’ve prayed for it to rain Doritos. Not once.
I’ve prayed for a couple million bucks to show up in my bank account. (I don’t know that there’s ever been a million that passed through the account since its inception)
On a more serious note – my wife and I have been praying for a child.
But…we’re about seven years in.
No little pastor.
No little Julianna.
Maybe the same thing has happened to you.
Maybe you’ve asked for something “good” and God has answered with something “bad.”
What’s the deal? Doesn’t God understand how prayer works?
Jesus has something to say on the matter. Check out his words from Matthew 7: “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?”
Think about it:
If your son came up to you with his big, tear-filled eyes and said to you, “Mommy, my tummy’s grumbling. Can I have a piece of bread?” Would any of you say: “Sure, son!” Walk away. Grab a plate, a knife and some butter and then SLAM a big old rock onto the plate. “Bon Appetite!”
If your daughter really wanted a pet and said to you, “Daddy, I want to get a gold fish and name it Princess.” How many of you would say, “Sure, honey. Anything for you.” Get into car, you head to the pet store, and come back with a poisonous King Cobra. “Here you go sweetie. Although…I don’t know if we should name him Princess.”
“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (v.11)
If you then, though you are an imperfect, sin-tainted, selfish human being, know to give a good gift to your child…
What do you think your perfect, holiness-radiating, selfless God will give to you?
God can ONLY give good gifts.
So…what’s the rub then? Why does God’s answers to our prayers sometimes seem disappointing? Two reasons. And they both involve inaccurate assumptions on our part.
(1) Assuming Your Request is Good
Think back to the Doritos prayer. I thought raining Doritos would be good.
It would also ruin the ecosystem, result in my digesting all kinds of germs, and probably ruin the Cool Ranch flavor!
Your child may think they know what is best. They may truly believe that staying up late and eating ice cream is what’s best – it’s certainly what they want most at that moment. However, a father who truly loves his children knows that staying up late and eating ice cream will result in children who don’t feel good shortly after and will have a following 12-hour period of crabbiness. The father looks at the whole picture, and knowing better than his child, may tell his child no – out of love!
The same is true for some of our real deal, difficult requests…
They may not always be centered in ‘goodness.’
They may be centered in “our sinful, imperfectness.”
Back to the prayer for a child.
One of the main reasons that I am praying for one?
I want one.
I want to be a father.
I want to teach them how to play catch.
I want to teach them how to ride a bike.
It sounds nice…
Did you hear what I was praying?
I want…I want…I want.
What about what God wants?
What about God’s desire to increase his eternal family?
What about planting the message of Jesus in the Heart of North Raleigh?
What about God’s desire to shape and mold myself and my wife and grow our faith as we dig deeper into His Word for answers?
What about the fact that I might not know what is good – eternally, absolutely, perfectly…good?
Friends, I don’t know your prayer requests.
But I know you too are an imperfect, broken, human being.
Could it be that our imperfect, broken human heart requests imperfect, broken things from our Father?
Thank God he doesn’t give us exactly what we want.
Thank God that he gives us exactly what is good.
Thank God that when I ask for a snake…God gives me a fish.
Thank God that when I ask for a stone…God gives me some bread.
(2) Assuming God’s Answers Can Be Bad
Because sometimes at the end of your prayers, God’s answer may be, “Yes. Your boyfriend is leaving you.”
Sometimes at the end of your prayers, God’s answer may be, “Yes, you will lose that job.”
Sometimes at the end of your prayers, God’s answer may be, “Yes. It’s confirmed. You have cancer.”
The temptation might be to say, “God, bad answer.”
The reality? God doesn’t give bad answers.
We might not always know how.
We might not always know why.
We might not always know much of anything.
But we do know one certain and sure reality:
God’s answers are only good.
Because God is only good.
Case and point? The cross.
We asked for a Savior.
We asked for God to send someone to help us.
We asked for God to get rid of our guilt, grief, and shame.
We probably pictured some type of superhero-looking guy.
A modern-day Avenger.
With an epic Thor like weapon and luscious, Chris Hemsworth looks.
We didn’t get that.
We got a carpenter’s apprentice.
A guy without a home.
A mild mannered dude who got roughed up and physically beaten on more than one occasion.
He was cursed at.
Arrested, convicted, bloodied, and killed.
And it’s easy to look up at the cross.
At his broken, bloodied, beaten body…
And say, “This can’t be any good. God, you didn’t answer my prayer. God, you don’t know what you’re doing!”
But we’d be wrong.
Because three days, later…
Three days later, Jesus didn’t just beat evil.
He didn’t just destroy sin.
He didn’t just wipe out death forever.
He guaranteed eternal life to you.
Do you see it? God answered your prayers.
Praying for a better life? God answered.
Praying for removal of guilt? God answered.
Praying for a Savior from all the junk you’re dealing with? God answered when he sent Jesus.
And Now? God keeps giving good gifts.
God isn’t hit or miss.
His gifts are always good.
That boyfriend? Could lead you away from faith.
That job? Could distract you from teaching your kids about their Savior.
That cancer? It’s will draw you closer in faith to me AND allow you all kinds of opportunity to witness to your family and friends until you join him in heaven apart from cancer…forever.
Because that’s the ultimate good.
Brothers and sisters, God’s answers all always good. Trust Him.
Whether he gives you some bread, some fish, or an eternal Savior…
God’s answers are always good. Amen.
A bit of review: Last week we heard about how the disciples began their BIG, INTIMIDATING mission to reach the ends of the earth with the Gospel. They did so empowered by their BIGGER, MORE INTIMIDATING God. At the end of the events of Pentecost, 3000 people were baptized!
Think about that:
In one day, the church had gone from a group of about 20 to over 3000 people.
From very tiny to megachurch.
And it was big
And it was exciting.
Now that they were a bigger, more formidable organization what should the “church” do next?
Decide on a church name?
Setup the constitution and bylaws?
Argue about whose turn it is to mow the lawn?
Today we look at the priorities of the early church and consider what they thought was important. Particularly we will consider how much their priorities should be a part of our church in 2018. Before we begin, a prayer: Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see; our ears to hear what you want us to hear and our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. Early Priorities
Acts 2:42 takes place right after they 3000 were added to the church. It says, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”
First, look at the word “devoted.” The Greek literally means “to adhere to,” or “to stick closely to.”
That makes the verb kinda like Gorilla Glue. Ever used Gorilla Glue? It’s very popular here at Precious Lambs. It is the repair glue of choice for a broken chair leg, or a broken plastic fireman’s leg. It holds together puzzle pieces that have been snapped in half and plastic hamburgers that some little kids treated like a real hamburger. It works well because it dries and seals the pieces together, holding them tightly, so that the two things will always stay connected.
That’s how the early Church was treating their priorities. They found them so integral to the survival and growth of the church that they didn’t just do them, they “devoted themselves” to them.
What were these priorities?
1. Devotion to God’s Word
Verse 42 says they were “Devoted to the apostles’ teaching.” The apostles are the very guys who learned directly from Jesus. They are the ones who saw him die and became convinced of his resurrection through his various appearances. They are the ones to whom Jesus said, “I’ll send my Holy Spirit to help you do the mission,” and to whom he gave the Holy Spirit in an incredible way at Pentecost!
In other words – the apostle’s teachings were not just their own ideas.
It wasn’t just their thoughts on the best way to fix a meatloaf.
It wasn’t just their opinion on the latest political controversy.
Their teachings were the very words of Jesus.
People are sinners.
People need a Savior.
Jesus is that Savior.
Jesus lived perfectly when they could not.
Jesus died innocently in their place.
Jesus rose triumphantly and conquered death.
Because of Jesus’ work, they were loved, forgiven and going to live forever in heaven!
This is an awesome message.
The people wanted to hear it a lot.
They needed to hear it a lot.
So, they devoted themselves to it.
Not once a year.
Not once a month.
Not even once a week.
“Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts.” (v.46)
It didn’t matter what was going on.
It didn’t matter if their boss gave them an extra project at work.
It didn’t matter if little Ezekiel had a soccer practice to get to.
It didn’t matter if the Royal Wedding was on the television!
They met at the temple and devoted themselves to God’s Word…
QUESTION: Are you that devoted?
I’ve been thinking about this a lot – and I’d say the Early Church’s devotion to God’s Word would put our devotion levels to shame:
They had to travel to the temple to get to the one copy of the scroll that was on hand. We just have to pick up our phones.
They had to travel to the temple to meet and hear the Apostle’s teachings. Again – we’ve got phones.
They had to deal with persecutions and death threats. We have to deal with someone on Facebook calling us a loser.
And yet – Whose is more in contact with God’s Word?
If you’re feeling convicted, pray with me:
Lord, forgive me.
Forgive me for my lack of devotion to you!
And here’s the thing – when you devote yourself to God’s Word, you’ll find out.
God does forgive you.
Because God’s Word says that God is devoted to you.
He devoted himself to – coming to earth and dying to make you apart of his family.
He is devoted to you – bringing you this message of His devotion to you – even as I speak these words to you.
He will always be devoted to you – because He promised He would and He does not break his promises.
And His devotion to us reinvigorate and repowers us to be devoted to him.
That’s challenge #1 Today. Re-devote yourself to Jesus who is completely devoted to you.
2. Devotion to Each Other
But God’s Word is not the only thing the Early Church was devoted to. Check out the next couple of verses:
They devoted themselves to fellowship. Fellowship means spending time together. It means being with one another. It means talking, conversing, swapping stories of the week, telling jokes, slapping high fives, giving hugs, and fist bumps.
Note that the Early Church didn’t just do fellowship; they devoted themselves to fellowship. They made sure that fellowshipping with others was high on their ToDoList. If they would have smartphones, they would have had Google Calendar reminders pop up to remind them to “check in with Mary – just to make sure she knows that you care.”
They devoted themselves to breaking bread together. That doesn’t mean they got together and karate chopped French baguettes. It means that they ate together. (Which is a is a pretty personal thing. There’s a reason it’s a common choice for a first date). The Early Church got personal. They shared meals together. They had lunch together. They had supper together. They got up early and had brunch together.
When’s the last time you did that? When’s the last time you grabbed someone else here right now and said, “Let’s grab a Chipotle Bowl together?” It’d be worth it.
They devoted themselves to prayer. They prayed for God to bless the Apostles’ work. They asked God to reach hearts with the Gospel. They asked God to help Edna who was at home with the flu. They asked God to help Jedediah who just started a new job last week. They asked God to reconnect with Lydia who they hadn’t seen in their church group for about a week and a half.
They devoted themselves to sharing. In fact, the Scripture says this about their sharing: “All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.” (v.44-45) That sounds incredible. They didn’t just give some extra money to help each other out (although they did do that – the Bible is filled with cases of them doing that). They sold things that they owned, in order to get the money to help each other out.
What’s that? Ned needs a root canal and doesn’t have enough money? I can’t pay for it right now but let me put my HD TV on Facebook Marketplace – and I’ll be able to help out in a bit.
This another level of being connected, isn’t it? Because people love money. Husbands – we have a hard time giving up some of the funds for our bass fishing boats to buy our wife flowers – and we live with them! Yet these people were helping out people they didn’t live with. People they weren’t related to. People that they didn’t have a financial obligation to help.
People they helped simply because…Jesus.
Because he had given them eternal riches.
Because he was their greatest treasure.
Because he provided all things to them anyways – and these were their brothers and sisters – a part of the same family.
Here’s the Point.
The Early Church’s first priority was God’s Word.
The second? EACH OTHER.
That’s important for us to consider.
Because there’s this notion out there among modern Christians that Christianity is something you can do by yourself.
I fear it’s a notion that some of us have.
Just study God’s Word by yourself.
Read the Bible by yourself.
No need for church. No need for fellowship.
No need for other Christians.
Is that actually true?
Well, that’s not what the Early Church thought.
It’s not what the Early Church practiced.
In fact, the Bible writers of the Early Church wrote, “Let us not give up meeting together.” (Heb. 11)
And “Let us encourage one another.” (Heb. 11)
Learn this lesson: You might be able to hold onto faith without others and by simply doing Bible reading on your own.
But… If you are devoted God’s Word, then you will devote yourself to others.
If you aren’t devoting yourself to others, then you aren’t really devoting yourself to God’s Word.
Devote yourself to God’s Word.
Re-devote yourself to each other.
Because when you are devoted to God’s Word, you see God’s devotion to you which will drive your devotion others.
And that’s important. Because it’s not always easy being devoted to others.
Sometimes the others are bitter.
Sometimes they are angry.
Sometimes they are sinful, not-always-that-pleasant people.
But remember that’s what Christ saw when he looked at you.
He saw a bitter, angry, sinful, not-always-that-pleasant person.
But He still devoted himself to you.
And He still devoted himself to the others here today.
Be devoted to who Christ is devoted to.
Be devoted to your family.
II. Awesome Results
Because when we are devoted to God’s Word and to each other there are some incredible results.
Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles… They were filled with awe. They were reinvigorated. They saw God’s power and God’s mercy again and again. They were strengthened in faith.
The same thing happens here. We see God at work and are strengthened in faith. We see this through the Bible as we hear about God’s incredible miracles – walking on water, making the blind to see, raising the dead. But we also see this with one another.
Seeing a friend who was very much against Christianity join us for worship for the very first time.
Listening as a man whose wife has been begging him to believe confess his faith in front of everyone.
Watching as a young infant is adopted into God’s family through the miraculous waters of baptism.
Rejoicing as a fellow believer dies; but we know we will see them again in heaven!
Being devoted to God’s Word and being devoted people devoted to God’s Word will strengthen your faith.
(2) Attention Gained
Look at verse 47. It says, “They were enjoying the favor of all the people.” That’s not just talking about other Christians or others in the church. But all the people surrounding them. Their devotion to God’s Word and to each other was so powerful that others were taking notice.
To be fair – if we are jerks to one another, others will take note of that too. They’ll take note and vow never to give Christianity a chance.
But if we are practicing this Biblical concept of devotion to each other…
…they’ll see you checking in with a church friend. “They had a bad week and I just want to uplift them.”
…or asking for praying for a church friend. “He’s going through a rough patch.”
…or hanging out with a church friend. “I love my church family and they are blessing to me.”
They will take notice.
They will want to be a part of it.
They will open a way for you to share the Gospel.
And from there, well…
(3) God Goes to Work
“And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” (v.48) Granted. God does not state that all people will automatically believe. They don’t. And it’s entirely possible to sow the seed of God’s Word and people still reject it.
The more we devote ourselves to Jesus; the more will we share Jesus.
The more we devote ourselves to each other; the more we will work together to share Jesus.
The more Jesus is shared?
Around February, I threw a lot grass seed on my back grounds. A lot. A lot, a lot. Two whole bags to be precise. Our backyard is kind of woodsy. There’s a lot of pine straw and plenty of clay. It’s not exactly a place where you’d expect seeds to grow.
And a lot didn’t.
I threw enough on there that – lo and behold – some.
The more you sow seed the more seed will grow.
The more we share Jesus, the more faith will grow.
This is the purpose of the church, is it not? To plant the message of Jesus to the end of the earth. It’s our mission to plant the message of Jesus in the heart of North Raleigh.
And here’s the reality – if we stick to the priorities of the Early Church – devotion to God’s Word and devotion to each other.
We will accomplish our mission. Amen.
What’s on your NEED-TO-DO List?
A NEED-TO-DO list are things that you need to get done in 2018. Maybe it’s things you’ve always wanted to do; things that fit into your goals; things that the internet tells you that you need to do.
What are they?
Do you need to lose weight?
Do you need to join a gym?
Do you need to join a gym and use that gym?
Do you need to get a degree?
Make more money?
Find the right guy or gal?
Maybe your NEED-TO-DO List is kid focused.
Need to get them learning their ABCs.
Need to get them learning their 123s.
Need to get them memorizing the order of Vice Presidents of the U.S. – because, “How can they get a job if they don’t have that memorized?”
Need to get them in karate.
Need to get them in ballet.
Need to get them playing basketball, knitting and making sorbet.
Question: How many of you have “get baptized” on your NEED-TO-DO List?
Or “get your kid baptized?”
Or, if you’ve been baptized, “reflect on your baptism daily?”
Today is a day all about Baptism. Our goal is to see that Baptism NEEDS to be a priority. We’re going to examine Scripture and see why it’s so important. Before we do so, let’s say a prayer: Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see. Open our ears to hear what you want us to hear and open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. Why is Baptism so Important?
There are a lot of places in the Bible that discuss the importance of Baptism. We are going to dig deeply into one section in 1 Peter 3. A bit of background: 1 Peter is the first letter written by (wait for it) Peter. Hence the name: 1st Peter. He writes the letter to Christians spread throughout the 1st century world and (since his words have been saved for us in 2018) he writes his letter to us.
In chapter 3 Peter directs Christians to do good even when suffering for it. Because (1) it’s better to suffer for doing good than for doing evil (2) suffering for doing good will always bring good.
Example? Jesus. Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. (v.18-19) He suffered. He suffered on the cross. He did that because he wanted to bring you to God. That’s exactly what Jesus is accomplished! He rose and brought you and I back to peace with God.
…Before Jesus came back to life and brought this good news to us, he made another stop:
It’s thousands of years before Jesus.
The earth is filled with violence. Hundreds of thousands (if not million) of people – all filled with violence.
They beat each other up for money. They attack one another for food. They pillage; they rape; and they want absolutely nothing to do with good and even less to do with God.
Noah isn’t violent.
Noah fears God.
Noah loves God.
Noah worships God.
Noah and his family of 8 make up the entire church at this time. They are the only God worshippers in whole world. Talk about a minority -- Their belief system encompasses less than .000001% of the world’s population.
But Noah isn’t alone.
Noah’s heart skips a beat. Have they come to kill him?
Noah cleans out his ears. “Who was that?” It sounds like it is coming from above.
Noah, this is God.
I have a task for you.
Build an ark – it’s like an ancient wooden ocean-liner in the shape of a rectangle.
Build the ark.
Built it by yourself.
Build it here in the desert.
In 40 years, I will send a flood that covers the whole earth and destroys this sinful, violent, godless generation.
Noah gets up from the ground.
Takes a deep breath.
And gets to work.
He chops trees.
He saws wood.
He hammers nails.
He and his family get to work on the construction of the ocean-liner like contraption in the middle of the desert.
But it isn’t without some suffering:
You idiot! What are you doing wasting your time on this project?
Hey weatherman, what’s the chance of rain today? Is there No-ah chance?
Hey Noah! When you’re done, come talk with me. I could use a 450 boat to cruise around the sand!
But Noah keeps working.
He works through the shoulder pains from hammering the nautical trusses.
He works through the pain in his thumb from the splinter he got putting the second-floor storage together.
He works through the tweaked back muscle from trying to pull the hippopotamus into the proper room.
Then, things change.
In fact, a group heads their way toward Noah for their daily routine of ridiculing that believing idiot:
“Hey Noah! You got a minute? I was about to cross the desert, but I figure I’d better be prepared in case it floods. You got time to start on an ark for me?”
And in the middle of the joke:
A drop of water.
“Wait? What was that on my face? Fred, is that you? Stop spitting when you laugh!?”
“What are you talking about? I wasn’t spitting. That didn’t come from me – in fact, I just felt it myself.”
“If you didn’t get me wet then…oh…no.”
And the rains came down.
And the rains turned into a torrential downpour.
And geysers from within the earth sprang up.
And the people start screaming.
And water starts to pile up.
And water begins to rush.
And some people are washed away.
And others tried to climb trees.
And some slip.
And finally, the last one outside looks up towards heaven. Curses God and God curses him.
Meanwhile, Noah stood near the 4th story window of his ark.
Drinking some coffee.
What’s interesting is that Peter references this account because these events are not the end of the story for those people. Because years later, After being made alive, Jesus went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. (v.19)
Do you see it?
These people aren’t drowning anymore.
Now they’re burning.
And Jesus says to them,
“You all were wrong.
You should have listened.
To my warnings.
To my warnings through Noah.
To 40 years of my warnings through that the gigantic wooden structure Noah built in the middle of the desert.
Do you see Noah here?
That’s because I saved him.
I saved him through water.”
In it, only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water. (v.20)
Saved from sin.
Saved from unbelief.
Saved from falling into the same traps that the other 99.9999% of the population was in.
And here’s where it gets good – and very relevant, this water (the water at the time of the ark) symbolizes baptism which now saves you. (v.21)
Do you see it?
Baptism is related to the flood in that it’s water.
But it’s related to the ark in that it saves.
It saves from sin.
It saves from death.
It saves from the same eternal destruction that the violent people from Noah’s time underwent and are undergoing.
Why get baptized? Same reason Noah built the ark, because in it, God saves.
And why baptize your kids? Same reason Noah told his kids about the ark, in it God saves.
II. How Does Baptism Save?
And maybe you’re thinking; Hold it! Pastor, aren’t we saved by Jesus? Isn’t it by faith on the cross? Isn’t it faith alone that saves?
Faith in Jesus saves.
Here’s why both of those are true. Look at verse 21 Baptism now saves you, not the removal of dirt from the body, but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Let’s break it apart:
1. Not Some Outward Act
This truth might seem obvious. Baptism doesn’t save by removing dirt from the body. It isn’t like some poison rubbed on us and we need to wash it off quickly lest we have to call the poison control center. It isn’t like the chemistry classroom when you accidentally spill some chemicals on yourself and have use that special chem lab shower to wash it off immediately.
Baptism’s point isn’t just a physically cleaning. That’s what showers and baths are for. It’s not like we need to scrub behind our ears get all of the sin off. Nor is baptism just an outward act. It’s not just a nice ceremony where you approach the font, throw some water on a kid, and say a nice prayer for his life – never to return him to church again.
And it isn’t some magic holy water that’s so special it removes 40% more sin than regular forgiveness. That makes it worth about 210 lies, 170 lusts, and 17 brother pinches.
Baptism is not some outward act.
It’s not something we do to earn God’s love.
It’s a gift.
2. Pledge of a Good Conscience
How do we know that? Look at the next part of the verse. “Baptism saves…the pledge of a good conscience towards God.”
QUESTION: In Baptism, how does one get a good conscience?
Just really mean it when you get baptized?
Like…really, really mean it?
Does baptism get super charged the more perfect faith that you, sinful, imperfect, individual can muster?
Because if that’s how you view baptism, think about this:
What happens when you don’t feel that good about your faith anymore?
What happens when you start to doubt?
What happens when your friend tells you about his baptism and “Man, his sounded way better than mine.”
Does your baptism still count?
Did it ever count?
Do you need a do over?
The pledge of a good conscience towards God cannot come from ourselves.
The pledge of a good conscience towards God comes from God.
It comes from his promise of forgiveness.
It comes from his promise of sins washed away.
it comes from his promise that you are his child.
3. Powered by Jesus
This is important. Because God doesn’t need a Do Over. God always keeps his pledges. In fact, look at the last part. Baptism saves…by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
While on earth, Jesus made a different kind of pledge. He swore to die and come back to life. He said,
“Go ahead. Kill me. Nail me to a cross. Leave me to die. Watch me breath my very last. Laugh all you want as you see me die.
…3 days later…
…I will return…
…I will live.”
If Jesus’ promise remained true past death, don’t you think his promise to you will remain true in this life?
If you’ve been baptized, he made a promise to you. You are his.
If you haven’t been baptized, he is waiting to make that promise to you.
One more thing about this passage. This is where it all gets connected. Jesus and faith and baptism.
1st - -Jesus saves.
2nd –Faith saves - - when that faith is in Jesus.
3rd – Baptism saves because it works faith in that Jesus.
It works faith because it is a pledge from God of his love.
It’s like holiday cards. Did you get any? Maybe you got a card from mom and dad, from your brother and your sister, from your coworker, from your good friends, from cousin Bob, and from your dental hygienist team.
But you didn’t send one to Aunt Sally. Because you weren’t sure Aunt Sally still liked you. She hasn’t sent one in years.
Then, you get one. And it’s pretty nice. And she signs it, “Love, Aunt Sally.” And that card gives you faith – she still cares about me.
Baptism is a pledge from God that he loves about you.
And it gives you faith that God loves you.
And it gives you faith that God will pledge to love you eternally.
This is why Jesus said this, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.”
Because Baptism is an act of faith, but it also works faith.
Faith in Jesus saves.
III. What Now?
1. Be Baptized
I’m sorry if this is an obvious first WHAT NOW? Point but please. God is holding out his promises to you. He promises to connect you to Jesus. He promises to make you a part of his kingdom. He promises to wash you from sins and make you a part of his family.
What are you waiting for?
Your parents to get here?
Your friends to get on board?
To feel readier?
These things are nice, but they don’t increase God’s promise power.
They don’t supercharge baptism.
Baptism is powered by God’s promise.
Don’t put it off.
The only one who wants you to put it off, is the devil. Because he can increase doubt when God’s personal promise has not been given.
Don’t give him that foothold.
2. Baptize Your Kids
Because your kids tend to have your genetics. They have your eyes. They have your brown hair. They have your chin. They may even have your propensity for baldness.
Unfortunately, they also have you sin. John 3 says, “Flesh gives birth to flesh,” meaning, “Sinful humans give birth to sinful humans.”
Kids need the promise of Jesus in baptism, too.
And this isn’t like a ride at an amusement park. God doesn’t say, “You must be this old to ride this ride.” If you have ever heard of an “age of accountability,” that’s essentially a human practice. God’s rule isn’t: “Wait until you are 16 until you can get baptized,” No. God’s rule is: “Go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Mt. 28:19)
All nations? That includes kids.
Get them baptized.
3. Celebrate Your Baptism
Because each year we all celebrate our birthdays. Even if you don’t like to have a party – generally people celebrate with you. They give you high fives. They give you cake. They give you a present. They give you messages on your Facebook wall.
It’s nice to celebrate the year we were born into this life.
But what is that compared to the year we were born into eternal life?
Celebrate your baptism.
Because on that day, God called you child.
On that day, God called you forgiven.
On that day, God called you – His. Amen.
Have you ever asked your kid to clean his room in the middle of video gaming? It never works very well.
I’m coming. Just after this level.
I’ll be there soon just a few more minutes.
Mom! I’m battling Bowser for control of the Mushroom Kingdom! If I don’t help now, the toadstools will be under his control forever. How can you talk about dirty sneakers at a time like this?
Of course – the same thing happens when you’re a grown-up.
Ever heard of a Honey-Do-List? What amazes me is how long honey do lists can become. They become long for two reasons. (1) One spouse will keep adding to it. Fix the toaster. Paint the garage. I think the heater’s broken! Could you set up a hanger system in my closet for all of my pocket scarves? (2) The other spouse will come up with reasons not to fix it. I’m going fishing. I’ve got work to do. Somebody’s gotta watch this football game, it won’t watch itself.
It makes me think: Putting things off is human nature. Procrastination is a key part of being a human.
But what about when procrastination makes its way into your spiritual life?
No big deal thing?
Today we’re continuing our series called Follow. It’s about following Jesus. Our focal point this morning is urgency. We want to learn why following Jesus is so urgent and how we can be urgent about Jesus in 2017. Before we do that, join me in 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. The Urgency of Near
The main lesson comes from Matthew 4. This takes place after our lesson from last week. Remember? John had pointed at Jesus and said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) The heavens opened at Jesus’ baptism. A dove landed on his shoulder and a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love, with him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:15-17) Highlights.
That was a highlight for John. He had beheld the reality of his message – that a Savior was coming – with clear eyes. He must have felt pretty good.
Then, a lowlight. John, motivated by what he has seen in Jesus, keeps preaching. He preaches to the tax collectors. He preaches to prostitutes. He preaches to Pharisees. He even begins to preach to King Herod – the guy in charge of Judah. And Herod is interested in him. He wants to hear what this crazy preacher will say. He loves to hear him talk about those Pharisees. He loves to see those religious officials squirm. He loves John’s message.
Until – it hits home.
John turns and says to Herod, “And you? Stop sleeping with your brother’s wife. You aren’t married to her. She isn’t married to you. That sexual immorality. That’s one of the commandments: You shall not commit adultery. What you’re doing is wrong. It’s wrong and if you don’t change, you’re going to hell!”
Can you imagine Herod sweating? He’s embarrassed. (Thank goodness there wasn’t Twitter at that time.) He thinks it over. I can’t repent. That would make me look weak—like some crazy preacher has control over me. So instead Herod has John arrested and thrown into prison. Herod thinks, “There I’ve dealt with that. No more grand revolutionary spiritual voices for people to follow.”
And things are quiet.
When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee…From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” (Matthew 4:12,17)
What do you know about heaven? The Bible doesn’t provide a full architectural schematic of heaven. There aren’t any illustrations. You can’t find heaven on Zillow. Google Earth does not allow you to zoom in and see Peter’s car parked on a side street near the holy donut shop.
But the Bible does say this: In heaven, there is no sadness. There is no mourning. There is no sin. There is no pain. There is no hunger. There is no thirst. There is no loneliness. There is no evil. There is no cancer. There is no AIDS. There is no terror. There is no racism. There is no death. (Revelation 21)
There is God. There is his love. There is joy. There is love. There is family. There is friends. There is a peaceful forever existence in the happiness of eternity. (Revelation 21)
Sounds awesome, right?
Ok Pastor. How do I get there? Again – Heaven isn’t physical. Rand McNally doesn’t know the way. You can ask Siri and she will not know. Heaven isn’t a place you drive to, walk to, or ride a motorcycle to.
Heaven is spiritual.
Heaven is invisible.
Heaven is a place you go after this life.
Heaven is a place you go when you die.
Heaven is place you go for eternity.
Which means – God has to get you there. And since God is the one who does the transporting, understand that God is the one deciding whether you can come or not.
It’s kind of like driving in a car. I know that some people have rules when you ride in their car. No sodas. No chips. No food and drink. No melty chocolate. Why? Well – they probably have had kids spill all over the carpets as they hit a bump on the road. They would like a clean car. It is their car, so makes sense that they get to set the rules for it. I remember once trying to get into the car of my friend’s mom and she wouldn’t let me until I took off my dirty, muddy, shoes. I couldn’t be mad. It was her car, her rules. God’s the same way. Although it doesn’t bother God whether or not you are drinking a Coca-Cola when he comes to get you. There is something that God doesn’t want in heaven:
Do not be deceived: Evildoers will enter into the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)
Back to Jesus. Jesus said, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near.” It means this – Abandon sin! Turn away from sin and follow God. Stop following lust. Stop following greed. Stop following pride. Stop following gossip. Stop following your vengeful desire to yell at your wife. Stop sin and turn to God. Because sin has no place in the kingdom of heaven. God doesn’t want sin in heaven. If you have sin, God doesn’t want you in heaven.
Pause with me for a moment. Here’s what the devil tempts us to think when you see that: Ok. I’ll work on it – eventually. I’m sure I won’t die for quite some time. I’m a young person. I just reached the age that you’re able to rent a car. I’ve got a long life left. Now? I need to worry about this life. I need to work on my job. I need to work on money. I need to work on my house. I need to work on my family. I need to work on my retirement package. I need to enjoy retirement.
I’ll deal with God later.
Look at what Jesus said again. Notice he did not say, “The Kingdom of God is later.”
He didn’t say: It’s not even close.
He didn’t say: It’s way in the distance.
He didn’t say: Don’t you worry about it. You have plenty of time.
He said, “It’s near.”
As in, close.
As in, soon.
As in, you could die in the next year, in the next month, 15 minutes after worship.
As in you could choke on a cookie (God forbid) after worship in the fellowship hall!
You don’t know when it will be time. You only know that it’s near. That means you need to follow Jesus – NOW!
Do you sense the urgency?
II. The Problem of Procrastination
Maybe you’re thinking:
Pastor, this is a young person's’ thing. When people get older, they get wiser and they come to their senses.
Here's the thing. I’ve met people of all ages. Teens who have said, “Later.” People in their twenties: Later. People in their thirties: Later. People in their forties: later. People in their sixties: later. People at the end of life – at the retirement homes I visit – where I don’t even know if I’ll see them next week – that I ask to come learn about Jesus with - Later.
It’s always later. This means that the problem isn’t maturity.
A couple of years back I saw that a friend of mine on Facebook was coming to Raleigh. It was a friend from the Seattle area where I was an intern pastor. A pretty good friend. We had gone to their house and hung out — plenty of times.
But this time I only saw it on Facebook. She knew that I was in Raleigh so…why didn’t she reach out? I left a note on the Facebook wall – If you’re in the area, come visit! She said, “Sure. I might be busy, but maybe I can get away.” A week later I saw a photo on Facebook of her relaxing and drinking an iced tea at Beasley’s downtown – I left a passive aggressive comment, “That place is awesome.”
Nothing. No response. Didn’t seek to hang out. Didn’t come to church.
Suddenly, I came to a harsh realization. I just wasn’t that important. It wasn’t a matter of too busy or unable. But not important. It's the same problem when it comes to following Jesus. The reality is that if you aren’t following Jesus, then he isn’t that important to you.
You can say, I just don’t have the time. But if Jesus is important enough, you’ll make the time.
I don’t have the time for Bible study – He’s not that important.
I’m too busy for church – He’s not that important.
I’ve got too much going on to be baptized – He’s not that important.
If Jesus was important to you, you’d do everything possible to make time for him.
If you haven’t, it’s your fault. Not your boss’ scheduling. Not your health. Not the weather.
If you don’t follow God, you don’t value Him.
If you don’t value Him, that’s sin.
If you’ve got sin, you can’t get into heaven.
If you can’t get into heaven, repent!
If you repent, do so now – because the kingdom of God is near!
III. Near (Revisited)
Near. Let’s revisit that phrase, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near.” We’ve been talking about that temporally – in relationship to time. Any day. Any minute. Any hour. That’s exactly what Jesus meant.
But sometimes there’s more than meets the eye with Jesus. Sometimes Jesus means more. Sometimes the answer is so much closer than you think. Maybe you’ve heard this passages before: Jesus said, “I am the way – no one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) Put that next to the last passage. “The Kingdom of heaven is near.” Do you see it?
If you were the listening to Jesus speak, then, yes, the kingdom of heaven was near – you could die any time – it’s temporal. But it’s also spatial. As in – the entrance to the kingdom of heaven is a few feet in front of you. He’s speaking with you. He’s sitting by you. He’s Jesus.
Remember what we heard John say about Jesus last week – “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” That’s what Jesus came to do on the cross. Because the reality is that every human being has sin – sin that they can’t remove on their own – sin that disqualifies them from heaven.
Jesus came to wash us from our sins. Jesus came to clean us up. Jesus came to make us ready for heaven.
Here’s why: Jesus understood urgency. Jesus understood that if he didn’t fix the problem of sin then you would not make it to heaven with him. Jesus understood that he had to live perfectly when you couldn’t, die innocently in your place, and rise triumphantly for all of your sins. Jesus knew that he had to do this in order to get you into heaven. He knew it and in fact -- It was a priority to him.
You were a priority to him.
Do you believe this?
Do you believe in Jesus? Are you ready to follow him?
Then, there’s something very important that you need to hear:
If you haven’t made Jesus a priority, you’re forgiven.
If others things have been more important than following him, you’re forgiven.
If you follow him – even if you’ve never followed him til right now, you are forgiven.
You will be in his kingdom.
IV. What Now?
How do you react to this awesome message? How do you make following Jesus a more important part of your life?
(1) Be Willing to Leave your Nets
Look at the account that takes place right after we hear about Jesus’ ministry: 18 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him.
Did you see that? They left their nets. That’s not a big deal if you’ve never touched a fish in your life and can’t tell the difference between a catfish and a guppy. But for these guys – it was everything! They left their nets – their livelihood. They left what made them money and followed him.
Do the same. Money is important, but not important enough to jeopardize your eternal future. Not important enough to jeopardize heaven.
If you are so busy, that you don’t have anytime to actively follow Jesus – make a change. Talk to your boss. Get Sundays off. Get a weekday off to join a small group. Turn off your work email at home and turn on your Bible.
Might you make less money? Might you not get promoted? Of course. That’s the reality of a world that doesn’t see the importance in following Jesus. But there’s eternal value in following Jesus. He will strengthen your faith in his Word. He will encourage you through his people. He will promote you – all the way to heaven.
(2) Be Willing to Leave Your Family
Look at the next verse: 21 Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.
These guys go a step farther. They leave their family – not that their dad was necessarily against their leaving or putting up a big stink about it – but it’s still a challenge to leave family. And sometimes family can be one of the biggest challenges to following Jesus:
You’re still believing that? I don’t like how it’s changed you. I think you should give it up.
You’re going to church? Can’t you stay home and have breakfast in bed with me instead?
You can’t come hang out because you’re serving God? That’s crazy! If that’s how you’re going to act, don’t bother spending time with me.
But God isn’t saying – Have nothing to do with your family. We can see them. We love them. They love us. But God is saying don’t make them more important than following Jesus.
Because they don’t love you more than Jesus.
Because they didn’t give up their lives for you, Jesus did that.
Because your family can’t get you to heaven, only Jesus can.
(3) Embrace your New Family
Still that’s hard. How do you do leave behind family?
With your new family.
That’s what happened to the disciples. They became brothers. They became brothers and sisters. That was key because they were travelling around Asia minor spreading God’s Word. We still use that today when we talk about each other.
This is important. Because if you’re the only one in your family who believes in Jesus – that’s tough. It’s hard. But you’ve got family here. People who love you. People who care about you. People who will encourage you to follow Jesus all the way to heaven. Lean on them.
And if you’ve got lots of believing family – understand that about people who don’t – it’s hard. They need you to be their family. You can come here and catch up with your family sure. But branch out! There are others here who need your encouragement. They need your uplifting. Be someone to lean on.
Hebrews says this, “Let us encourage each other—and all the more as we see the Day approaching.” Do you hear the urgency? It isn’t just in following Jesus, but urgency in encouraging one another…because you never know when Jesus will come back. Be ready. Amen.
Have you seen that meme from the movie ELF? I saw it back on December 26th last year -- where Will Ferrell’s character is panicking with excitement because "There’s only 363 more days until Christmas!?!"
But now it’s not funny anymore. Now we are into the holiday stretch. Now we’re on the clock.
And there’s a lot of things that will be vying for your attention this Christmas season.
Macys’ will be wanting you to shop their sales.
Amazon will be wanting you to surf the net.
ABC Family will be wanting you to watch Christmas movies.
Your friends at work will be wanting you to attending an Ugly Sweater party.
Church will be wanting you to do “churchy” Christmas things.
And you’ll be wanting to wrap presents, drink some spiked egg nog, and curl up to some Bing Crosby at around 5pm.
There’s a lot of ways to prepare for Christmas. But are all of them good?
And I checked – you can find all kinds of Google articles on the “10 Most important Christmas things to spend time on” this holiday season.
But as cool and awesome as the internet is – maybe there’s somewhere else we can look for guidance on the holiday season.
Something that’s been around a lot longer.
Something that’s been around for every Christmas ever celebrated – and even a few before Christmas even happened.
Today we are going to start our series from God’s Word called Old Fashioned Christmas. We are going to look at how people prepared for Christmas – before there was Christmas! As we take a look at these Old Testament (before Jesus) Scripture readings, we’re going to get some divine guidance on our holiday season. Before we do that today, please join me in 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. Time Without God?
We’re going to start this week in Isaiah chapters 1 and 2. Isaiah is a prophet who lived about 600 some years before Jesus was ever born. That means – he lived hundreds of years before anyone ever heard of Christmas – thousands of years before Walmart ever put their first Christmas tree display up in July.
At the time of Isaiah, the scene wasn’t exactly the peaceful, Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire situation that we think of today.
Look at what Isaiah writes about the state of Israel:
Your whole head is injured, your whole heart afflicted. From the sole of your foot to the top of your head there is no soundness—only wounds and welts and open sores, not cleansed or bandaged…your country is desolate, your cities burned with fire; your fields are stripped by foreigners right before you, laid waste as when overthrown by strangers. Daughter Zion (that’s an ancient phrase meaning “Jerusalem”) is left like a shelter in a vineyard, like a hut in a cucumber field…” (1:6-8)
Ever been to a cucumber farm before? Me neither. But I love that illustration. Because during the peak cucumber season, the little cucumber storage huts are completely full. They are filled with vitamins and minerals – and big, plump juicy cucumbers that just can’t wait to be pickles.
But at the end of the harvest – after they’ve all been sold, and the left overs have been given to the local food shelter and the deer have found the mushy remains and eaten them up, there’s not much left. Just dirt. Bugs. A few rotten pieces in the corner. It’s desolate.
That’s how Isaiah describes Israel. They are dirty. They are bug ridden. They are desolate. There isn’t anything nutritious or beneficial about their existence.
But this message would have been strange to the Israelite people.
It says in 1:1 that this was written during the reign of Uzziah. You can learn more about the specifics of his reign in 2 Chronicles 26, but the general impression of his reign is that things weren’t all that bad when he was in charge. In fact, he probably had a good approval rating. He rebuilt Elath – a city that had been destroyed in southern Judah. He defeated the fierce, terrorist like enemies, the Philistines. (v.6) He worked a trade agreement where the Ammonites brought taxes and tribute (v.8) to him. He built towers, and walls, and cisterns (v.9); he had plenty of livestock (v.l0) and he had a well-trained army. (v.11)
The description in 2 Chronicles doesn’t match the description of Isaiah.
But Isaiah wasn’t commenting on the economic state.
He wasn’t commenting on the power of the Israelite drachma.
He wasn’t commenting on the scope of Israelite political power.
He was commenting on Israel’s spiritual condition. Isaiah 1:2 says, “Israel is a sinful nation. They have forsaken the Lord; they have spurned the Holy one of Israel and turned their backs on Him.”
As in, they didn’t have time for God.
As in, they were too busy.
As in, he was last on their To Do List.
WHAT ABOUT YOU?
I think this is a good time to stop and ask that question. How much time are you allotting for God this holiday season? You know – the One who created you, gave you life, has been taking care of you for years and sustains you each day so that you even have enough money and strength to celebrate Christmas in the first place…
How much time are you going to give Him?
An hour a Sunday – because I can use a lot of the service to write down my shopping list plan for the rest of Christmas!
A minute to skim through a Bible passage or two on social media – because it makes me feel better about lingering on angry political posts for an entire lunch break!
Hours at church each week – because To God Be the Glory! And also Me! I hope people see how awesome I am at Christmas – and to Me be the Glory!
We just had Black Friday. Hundreds of thousands in Raleigh hit the shops and the malls -- many of them at 4am! They spent all day shopping and even continued shopping into the night on their computer. Invigorated and excited by the deals that they found online.
But think about it:
4am is no problem for shopping, yet 10:30am on Sunday is too early for God?
An entire day is no problem devoted to parking at Crabtree Mall, but an hour is too long for God?
A weekend of shopping takes months of planning and couponing and mapping out the right area that I should go to at just the right time to get the best deals on the best items at the best times...but I’ll only consider mapping out my time with God, because Pastor said so.
It’s an epidemic in America. It can get us too! Even if you aren’t into shopping. Even if you’re only into Holiday marathons, party planning, wrapping, Christmas concert going, hunting, watching football or just making money to pay the credit card bills in January, it’s so easy to make God the very last One to spend time with.
And that’s where it gets serious. Even though Isaiah was only speaking of the spiritual condition of the Israelites his first prophecy, he was also offering a warning. If the people didn’t have time for God, eventually God wasn’t going to have time for them. And if He didn’t have time for them, then this spiritual destitution, would become very real. It would become very physical.
It would become eternal.
The same warning is true for you. If you don’t have time for God, why should He have time for you?
Eventually – He won’t!
It’s kind of like if you got into a Thanksgiving spat. Ever had one of those? You have some relatives and friends over to your house. You eat some turkey. You talk about the recipe for the dressing. But then, you start talking politics. Suddenly, your good friend is a big enemy. And you argue – crudely and rudely—for the entirety of the Halftime show.
What happens if you don’t apologize and make up before Thanksgiving is over? If they pick up their coat and leave without an apology for you, because you didn’t want to talk to them? Well…The sin festers. The bitterness intensifies. A friendship is ruined.
If you don’t return to God. If you don’t come back to your Savior. If you prepare for Christmas without God, eventually it will be too late.
And He’ll be gone.
II. God’s Time for Us
But don’t think that God wasn’t ever at work for you. Inside these harsh, scary, challenging words of Isaiah is one of the greatest promises of God’s love in the Old Testament:
“Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the LORD, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” (1:18)
I used to be up in Wisconsin. Here’s the thing about living up North—sometimes you don’t get all of the leaves raked up before snow comes. Because -- it snows sometime in early September. Regardless – when that snow melts in mid-March, the ground is a mess. There’s mud, decayed leaves, an old McDonald’s Happy Meal bag, and a brownish, grey apple peel on the grass.
But then – it snows again. The next morning you wake up and there isn’t an inch of grass.
There isn’t a hint of trash.
You can’t see any of the mud.
Just this brilliant, sparkling, scene of fluffy, white snow.
God says that is what he would do for Israel.
God says that is what he would do for you.
Those filthy disgusting sins – the stuff that will ruin a Christmas celebration:
Rude words spoken.
Sex had…and lingering on your heart.
A past filled with yuck! and gross! and God could never love me.
Covered by God’s love.
Covered by divine forgiveness.
Covered by Jesus Christ.
Understand: God was always at work to do this for you. From before you were born – from Ancient times – from times long before the First Christmas ever took place – God was planning to send a Savior. God was spending all of his time working for you. He was keeping a small group of Israel alive from whom the Savior would emerge. He was maintaining promises in His Word. He was working miracle after miracle in the Old Testament to prove that He means his promises and keep faith growing.
At just the right time, He set up a Roman Government that would ask for a census at just the right time to move a young man named Joseph and his bride to be named Mary into the town of Bethlehem – long promised to be the home of the Savior. The Bible says this, "When the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law – that’s us – that we might receive the full rights of His Children.” (Galatians 4:4-5)
Talk about incredible! God used all of His time for you.
And when the Savior did finally come…
He dedicated every hour of his life to you.
He dedicated the last moments of his breath to you.
He gave up his time on earth for you!
He rose triumphantly from the grave to offer you an eternity of time with Him in heaven.
III. What now?
(1) Go to His Mountain
The next chapter says this, “In the last days, the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains…and all nations will flock to it.” (2:2)
That’s because things that are lifted high are easily seen.
Think about it -- how many times have you been driving down I-40 – it’s late in the day. You’re tired. You’re hungry. It’s late. You’re about to pull over and give up, but then, in the distance, you see it: The Golden arches. They mean delicious is on the way.
That’s why churches had steeples. So that no matter what’s going on – no matter where you are – no matter what kind of awful is going on in your life, you can look up and see – a cross. See the place where you can go and find God.
So -- Go to His mountain. Make sure that you have time to be in church this Christmas preparation season. Put it down on your Google calendar as a can’t miss event of the week. In fact, I think you can even lock it into Google calendar as an “unchangeable time.”
But we’re not open all the time. Does that mean God’s mountain is only open on Sundays? Of course not! You can go to God’s mountain without even leaving the comforts of your home. Pick up a Bible. Open it up. Use the Advent reading suggestion that is stuffed into your bulletin this week – Go to God’s mountain.
And please keep in mind that simply having this advent planner, doesn’t mean you’ve actually made it to God’s mountain. That’d be like assuming that once Google Maps is fired up, you’re at your destination. It doesn’t work like that. You’ve got to actually get in the car and drive.
And you’ve got to get into God’s Word to arrive at his mountain.
(2) Walk in His Footsteps
What do you do there? Look at what Isaiah says,
“Let us go to the mountain of the Lord to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways so that we may walk in his paths.” (v.3)
Because when you get to God’s mountains, that’s what you see: Footprints! And just like when there’s a fine dusting of snow and you walk outside, see your dad’s footsteps and try to follow them, that’s what we do on God’s mountain. We follow his footsteps. God’s footsteps lead to some incredible truths.
You see his steps throughout history to ready for the coming of the Savior.
You see his steps throughout prophecy to prepare for saving you.
You see his steps toward the cross – to take away all your sins.
You see his steps off the cross – with a tiny hole in each footprint – showing you just how much he loved you!
This means when you’re at God’s mountain – you don’t just chill. You’re active. Actively listening. Actively learning.
Not playing games on your iPhone.
Not looking up fantasy scores.
Not getting distracted by text messages.
Actively coming up with a plan to put God’s Word into your life.
(3) Live in Peace
Isaiah talks about this on God’s mountain: God will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords and make them into gardening tools. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore!
Which is something that happens during the holiday season. Supposedly, people lay down their differences and stop hating on one another.
Then, come December 26th it’s right back to hating on one another.
Calling people racist names on Facebook.
Gossiping about that coworker on the day back to work.
Leaving a nasty message for your parents about why you’ll never go to their house for Christmas again.
It’s funny. Things and stuff and gifts and cookie and garland and mistletoe and Santa – can make you happy, but they can’t bring peace. Deep down – the problems you have before Christmas are still there during Christmas – and still there after Christmas.
But Jesus deals with those problems.
The mountain of God brings peace.
The mountain of God brings you peace with God.
If you’ve got peace with God, it’s a lot easier to have peace with other.
So what do you do this Christmas season?
It just started. You’ve still got plenty of time. Add “Time with God” to your holiday list. Make it the most important part of your list. Listen to the words of Isaiah:
“Come, descendant of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord.”
Silent night. Holy night. All is calm. All is bright. Sleep in heavenly peace.
Is that usually how you feel during Christmas? Peaceful. Calm. Quiet.
I don’t know about you but I often think that song would need to be rewritten to cover my Christmas:
Busy night. “Things need to get done by next Tuesday,” night.
Not so calm. My heart’s filled with fright.
Because baking, wrapping, and decorating need to be finished before Grandma comes in.
Did I buy the Christmas cheese? I need a break from Christmas please.
I don’t think that’s supposed to be the tone of the season. Yet – it is so easy for Christmas to become so complicated that our hearts are filled with stress and anxiety rather than peace and joy.
How do we stop that?
Over the next couples of weeks, we will be going through a new sermon series called A Simple Christmas. Our goal is to learn from God how to make this Christmas season – the simple, peaceful, reflective season that it’s meant to be. We want to recapture that simple joy of the shepherds, the simple peace of the Mary, and the simple song of the angels.
There’s no better place to start when you’re trying to make things simple, than with your schedule.
I. Schedule Complicators
What I mean is this. Take a look at my Google calendar. Here’s what it looks like around October. I’ve got a good game plain. There’s a few events. But in general, things are nice and easy.
Then, November comes around. I make a few additions here and a few additions there. Then, suddenly….my calendar looks a lot more like this. It’s so loaded and so full that I have to schedule time to interpret my calendar into my calendar!
Check out this warning from Jesus in Luke 21:34 “Be careful,” he says, “or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap.”
Anyone here like shopping at the mall? Did you ever notice that you can travel a lot more quickly at the beginning of the mall run than at the end? Once your arms are weighed down by bags from Macy's, Nordstroms, Best Buy, the Apple Store, and Spencer’s – you can’t move as fast as you used to. You may even have to sit down at one of those nice benches and watch the kids sit on Santa’s lap.
The same thing is true spiritually. When we weigh our hearts down with things and stuff – things and stuff that might not even be inherently evil – the things and stuff make it more difficult to prepare our hearts. They slow us down when we’re running to God. They distract us in hearing his Word. In fact, they might even prevent us from ever getting to the peace of God altogether.
Every holiday season there are a few culprits that repeatedly fill up our schedule. Watch out. These things aren’t bad. But when they become more important than seeking God, then there is a heart problem.
I already mentioned this one as an illustration. (And no, dads, this isn’t your excuse to say, “Hey, I don’t have to get anyone any gifts. Pastor said so.”) Gifts are just fine. Gift giving is a godly trait. Gift giving is a fine tradition.
But when scouring through the Toys ‘R Us catalog is more important than scouring the pages of the Bible, when a search of your internet history brings up the Word “SALE” thousands of times, but the name “Jesus” – once — in the form of a cross for sale at Hallmark. Then, isn’t it possible shopping has become a distraction?
I say this with all the love in my heart, because I am a person who loves baking. Not actually slaving over the oven, but eating what comes out of the oven. Baking is not a bad thing.
Yet somehow, somewhere, we got it ingrained into our skulls that a successful American Christmas has gingerbread, pfeffernusse, sugar cookies, peanut butter cookies, chocolate chip cookies, cookies in the shape of Santa, cookies in the shape of a star, peanut brittle, bon bons, pralines cookies, peppermint cookies, and those little pretzels covered in dyed green chocolate to look like a wreath and two little red M&Ms to look like a bow.
Ya’ll – we have to skip Advent devotion tonight because I’ll be too busy baking. Problem?
Again – decorating isn’t bad. But we live in a society where there’s more than a few reality TV shows bent on showing us how real Americans celebrate the holidays by disguising their house as a light up pinball machine. And Martha’s Stewart’s magazine Real Simple gives us article after article of 20 step directions for hanging the perfect wreath next to the perfect garland leading up to the perfect mistletoe.
I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to miss that Advent service at church because the little lights on the ceramic church in my Christmas village aren’t working right.
Oh parties. There are lots of parties. Parties with family. Parties with friends. Parties with coworkers – for your job and your spouse's job. Parties for the kid in PreK with the birthday. Parties for neighbors. Parties at that big old mansion down the street that perhaps you were invited to on accident, but you don’t want to miss that party because you've always wanted to be inside the mansion.
Parties aren’t bad. But when we party simply for the sake of partying (or better yet) simply for the sake of telling people “Look at all the parties I have been to.” Isn’t there something wrong?
Thanks for the invite to Christmas Eve service pastor, but…I’m invited over to “the coolest guy at work's” house. You understand, don’t you?
5) Social Networking.
I put this one up here, because the honest truth is that this is a huge problem in society. We are convinced that we are the busiest people in the history of generations on earth. Why? Because of Social Media.
Tasks that should take two minutes – I’m gonna check to see if that place is still having a sale – become hours. “But as I was looking for the sale, I found a good deal that I felt I should SHARE on Facebook with my friends. Which led me to TWEET about how the sales aren’t any good anymore. And then I saw this video condemning how Facebook distracts us all from the true meaning of Christmas, so I thought I’d share it—on Facebook.”
“No, Pastor, I just don’t’ have time to read through the Gospel of Luke in preparation for Christmas. I’m #TooBusy.”
Read the warning from Jesus again. Luke 21:34 “Be careful,” he says, “or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap.” That day? It’s not referring to December 25th, 2015. It’s referring to a Day that’s much more important than that. A day that will only happen once and if you aren’t ready for it there won’t be a chance for you to shape up and try it again next year.
Jesus is talking about Judgment Day. The day when all people are judged. The day when people are sent to heaven or to hell. Not just for a day. Not just for the time it takes to go to a bad office party.
Brothers and sisters, there is nothing more important that you can do this Christmas. Then, prepare your hearts for the coming of the Lord. Today God’s Word says, Be careful. Don’t get distracted.
Don’t be Lot’s wife.
Do you remember the story? Lot was a believer. Lot and his family lived in a city of unbelievers. A city that hated God. A city that proved their hatred for God by acting in defiant opposition to everything that God had to say.
A city that God was going to destroy.
But an angel fo the Lord came to Lots’ family. He warned them. He said, “Follow me. There’s little time. We must get out of the city. We must run outside of the gates. We must run to safety and not look back. God is going to destroy this place with fire from heaven. There is no time. Pursuing God’s command right now is the only thing that should be taking up your time.”
His daughters ran.
His wife ran…and stopped. It was too hard to leave her things, her stuff, her friends. She longed for earthly things more than the things of God.
She turned around…and became a pillar of salt.
II. God’s Simple Schedule
I’m not suggesting that you’ll turn into a pillar of salt. But I am suggesting that if things and stuff keep us from following God, we will be punished.
Repent. Confess your sins of filling your time with things and stuff and dropping God from your schedule. Ask for forgiveness.
And know that he gives it.
How do we know that? Because your forgiveness was a part of God’s simple schedule. Take a look at this passage from Galatians 4:4 “When the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.” Notice the simple two part schedule that God planned.
Might I add that this has been a part of God’s schedule since the beginning? Did he not say to the devil in the first few days of this earth’s existence – “I will put enmity between you and the woman..and one of her offspring, will crush your head.” (Gen. 3:15)
Romans tells us that when the time was just right. Eve’s great, great, great, great, great, great (many times over) grandson, her offspring Jesus, was born. Born of a woman.
God didn’t get distracted. He didn’t let questions like – “How can your Son be the Savior? He’s God. He isn’t held to the same restrictions as humans. He can’t trade in his perfect life for their perfect life because they aren’t on the same playing field.” “And How can he be God? If he is born of a human, he needs a mommy and a daddy. But then, he wouldn’t be God and your plan wouldn’t work. He wouldn’t be aable to save human beings.”
God did what he did. He sent his Son. Born of a woman. Born of to a woman who had never had sex. Born to a husband who knew that she had never had sex. Born of God’s miraculous power.
2) Save the World
And he was born, to save you. It says, “to redeem those under law.” That’s us! We were the ones who were to be punished for not putting God first. We were the ones who had missed the boat because we were spending our time pursuing our own fleshly desires.
But God came to save you. That was part two of his simple plan. Live perfectly. Die Innocently. Rise triumphantly. Save you.
God didn’t get distracted. He didn’t get distracted by our wants. He’s not like Santa Claus who gives us what we want. “I want a New Transformer toy that I’ll play with twice and then get bored with and leave in the bottom of my toy closet.” Nope. God gave us what we needed. He didn’t come to get us a million dollars. He didn’t come to get us a challenge free life on this earth. He didn’t come to make sure that our Christmas trees are fully decorated with hundreds of gifts beneath it.
He came to save us from sin, death, and hell.
Scripture says, he came to “redeem us who were under law.” To buy us back from the punishment we deserve. He came to win forgiveness. He did this to “give us the full rights of sons.” We have the right to have peace with God. We have the right to have joy this holiday season. He gave us the right to heaven.
He gave me the right to say “You are forgiven.” And for it to be true.
III. A Sample of a Simple Schedule
Peace, joy and God’s love must be what predominates our Christmas schedules. We do that in three simple ways:
Specifically. Meditate on his word. Read Romans 13:14 “Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ.”
There are a lot of ways to dress for Christmas. When I was younger, my mom insisted on dressing me up in a matching velvet suit coat to my sister’s matching velvet dress. Some people love wearing Christmas sweaters.
Jesus reminds us to dress up in Him. In his righteousness. In his purity. In his forgiveness. You do that by meditating on his Word.
It’s so much easier to dress, of course, when it is the only thing you are doing. It’s hard to dress when you are doing the dishes OR to dress while you are hanging tinsel.
It’s the same thing with studying God’s Word. Set aside time to put it on your schedule. Make it as a part of your day as getting dressed is. Put on the LORD Jesus Christ. First thing in the morning. Do it in the afternoon. Do it in the evening. Literally go into your schedule and mark it in permanent marker. Make it the one part of your schedule that you will not and cannot give up.
In the section we were reading from Luke earlier, Jesus offered this is a second way to prepare. He said, “Be always on the watch and pray.” (Luke 21:34)
Can you imagine what it would be like if we spent as much time in prayer as we do on our iPhones?
“This is exciting. Rather than post it on Facebook, I’ll say a prayer of thanks.”
“This is challenge. Rather than complain via mass text, I’ll say a prayer asking for God’s help.”
“I feel terrible. Rather than soothe my conscience with pictures of dogs dressed up in Santa costumes, I’ll ask God for forgiveness.”
Pray brothers and sisters. Know that God hears you. It is a “right of sons” to talk to their dad and it is a right that God has given you through Jesus Christ.
Isaiah 63:7 says, “Tell of the kindnesses of the Lord, the deeds for which he is praised.” This is probably the hardest one for us. It’s the one part that we dread.
But it’s so important.
Think about it. There is no better gift than the message of salvation. Salvation doesn’t get old. It doesn’t wear out. The batteries don’t die. It is one size fits all. You don’t need to take it back to the store. There isn’t a salvation 3.8 set to come out next year – so why bother on it this year?
Salvation is one of kind because it comes from our eternal Lord. There is no better gift than that.
We need to do that together this Christmas. We need to invite others to come hear this message – it’s why in the back of the bulletin you have a worksheet to help you determine who to invite. Please read that. Please partake. This is one of the MOST important things for you to do this Christmas! So important that God promises to go with you as you share.
IV. The Time is Now
Jesus told them this parable. “Look at the fig tree and all the trees. When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.” (Lk. 21:29-31)
God's kingdom is near, but we don't know how near it is. Share His message with others and keep it a SIMPLE Christmas. Amen.
That was amazing!
From what they could see in the back, Jesus had made the bread come out of thin air. He had been feeding them all from what seemed like one never ending basket of food. There’s no way that thing had the thousands of loaves of bread and the thousands of fish necessary to feed the whole crowd stuffed inside of it’s wicker sides.
Jesus had done a miracle.
And, come to think of it, there was probably only an hour or so more before it would be time for late night snack. They could go back into town and use some of their hard earned money to buy few dates to satisfy their late night hunger or…
“…Hey! Do you wanna follow that Jesus!?!”
With Jesus, they’d never be hungry again. They’d never need to walk to the store, beg on the side of the road, work all week long, farm the fields, raise the chickens, or even so much as unpackage the wrapping paper. With Jesus, they could sit back, relax and take it easy. Jesus could provide all that their bodies needed.
Now…if only they could find him...
Do you ever feel like that? Do you ever feel if God would simply ‘show up’ in your life and take care of all your earthly needs – then you’d be set? Do you ever feel like the most important thing you need is a better job, plenty of food, a new home, the right guy, the right children – more money?
The North Carolina powerball is currently at 50 million dollars. Dream with me – what would that be like? Most of your problems would go away, right? You could pay off your mortgage. You wouldn’t have to work. You could catch up on child care payments. You could get a nice car whose driver side window went all the way up. You could pay for all the doctor bills and appointments necessary at Duke and UNC in order to heal yourself of every ailment that bothers you.
I think it’d be an awesome way to ensure that we break ground on a brand new facility for Precious Lambs tomorrow! With state of the art robot assistant teachers in every room. Each kid could have their own iPad!
If only God paid more attention. He needs to provide more physical blessings for us. Afterall, there is nothing more important than physical blessings…right?
Physical blessings were the reason the crowd searched for Jesus through the night. While he was on the lake with the disciples, they were frantically going through the neighboring towns just like the search party in Beauty and the Beast – “Where is he? Have you seen Jesus? Have you seen my ticket to easy street?”
Take a look at your text. Listen to what happens when finally found him the next day They asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” As if they knew, Jesus is going to want us to talk about spiritual stuff. Rather than calling him what we want -- FREE FOOD PROVIDER -- we should call him teacher. It’ll placate his conscience and we’re sure to get some more food.
But Jesus saw right through their plan, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill."
In other words – you guys couldn’t care less that I am the Messiah doing incredible, soul saving miracles. All you care about is your stomach.
Quiz Time. The Israelites thought that feeding their bellies was the most important thing. What body part do you think is the most important to keep healthy?
Take a look at the options below. Then, write down the one that you think is most important to keep healthy.
Stomach --- Brain --- Sex Drive --- Wallet --- Smile --- Soul
Maybe you circled stomach. This probably depends on how your stomach feels. (We could all circle it at one time or another). As long as you aren’t hungry, things are ok. It’s why you get cranky when you haven’t had enough to eat. It’s the reason you work. In your prayer life, this the only thing you ever really ask God for. If you’re a kid, you might have picked this one. There was a young girl not that long ago whom I asked, “What is your favorite part of church?” Answer? The cookies. At least she’s honest.
Maybe you circled brain. If you did, you value education above all else. It’s important to get your kids in the best academic school. That’s the number one thing you look for in a Preschool, an elementary school, a middle school or a high school. It’s why you read the way you do – biography here, science there, dominate all my friends on Trivia Night there – so that I can place my doctorate on the wall there. It’s why you never bring up a bunch of Bible stuff like Creation and the Flood and Jonah inside of a big fish in front of your friends because that would make you look foolish.
Maybe you circled sex drive. Maybe you didn’t cause it’s kind of embarrassing, but a look at your life would certainly make a case that this is most important. You throw out all of your morals for a moment of excitement. You ignore God’s warnings for your soul, because you are too busy listening to the longings of your sexuality. XXX.com is favorite on your computer’s webpage while Biblegateway.com isn’t even highlighted as a “recently visited’ website.
Maybe you circled wallet. (Which isn’t technically a body part so perhaps we should have placed “hip where your wallet or purse goes instead) If you did circle that, then congratulations – you agree with millions of Americans who verbally disavow wealth but secretly think money is the only thing necessary. You love watching your stocks grow. You have an entire shelf of “Get rich quick Books”, but you don’t have any idea where your Bible is. Your least favorite part of the service it the offering because “God better not be asking for my hard earned money."
Maybe…and this is tricky…you circled your smile. “God I just want to be happy.” If you did circle this, you’ve watched plenty of Disney films. Who cares about money. Who cares about food. Who cares about my wallet or my sex drive – just as long as I’m happy. And honestly? Who cares about what God says? My moral compass will consist of “Does it make me happy?” If it does, well, sorry God.
Of course there is only one answer that I haven’t read yet. Maybe you circled it. If so, that's a good answer.
Your soul is the only thing listed that you cannot live without. It is the only thing that lasts forever. It's what makes you -- you. It's what will be judged by God Almighty at the end of your life.
If you wrote down soul, good for you. But don't get too excited. Next I want you to think -- if soul is the most important part of your body to keep healthy -- how healthy have you been keeping it?
If someone looked at your life this past week, would they be able to tell that soul feeding is your number one priority?
If not, repent for the times that you haven’t made it your priority.
It's time to change.
Of course if you are going to start feeding your soul, then you need to know what to feed it. There are plenty of bad options out there. What is the best option for feeding your soul.
Allow Jesus to answer. Let him tell you about the Bread of Life -- the best soul food you'll ever eat.
1) It’s Longevity.
Jesus said, “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.”
Have you ever had stale Doritos before? It's such a sad event. They taste stale and kind of soggy. Yuck. That’s why it’s important to look at the sell by date on the back of the packaging – for any kind of food! Imagine if grocery stores never changed their produce or sent things out after they expired - not good.
That’s the problem with anything physical – it will expire. Food spoils. Knowledge fades. Sexual highs last a moment. Money disappears with the change of the ticket tape. Your smile comes, goes, and appears as a fake pleasantry even when you are feeling lonely and empty inside.
But the food that Jesus is offering, lasts much longer than the end of the month. It’s shelf life will outlast the brick and mortar of any store. It even outlasts the pickles down in the cellar of your grandma’s house.
Jesus offers Food that endures to eternal life. As in…it lasts forever. Just like your soul. Which when you die, will continue to live eternally. Either in the joyous, painfree courts of heaven OR the painful, awful, fiery depths of hell. A forever that could start at any moment.
Sounds important, right?
2) It’s Producer
The people are interested in what Jesus has to say, so they respond, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
The people are very interesting in their next answer. They asked him, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’"
In other words – "Maybe Jesus, we’ll believe you…if you make us some more of that FREE bread out of thin air bread!” (At least they’re persistent).
32 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven.” Moses wasn’t doing magic tricks by providing manna to fall from the sky in the desert – that was God. Consequently, the bread of life that Jesus was speaking of also came directly from God!
Ever been to a family reunion before? The truth is that some of the dishes at the family reunion potluck are better than others. Grandma made that pie? Delicious. Uncle Bob fried that chicken? I’ll have some. Crazy Aunt Gertrude made that Jell-O with some kind of floaties in the middle? I’ll pass.
The bread of life comes from God! It comes from the only holy, perfect, all powerful, all loving, all knowing, all incredible Being in the universe! He will provide a sweetness beyond Little Debbie, a nutrition beyond the Green Giant and a satisfaction beyond Snickers.
3) It’s Source
Jesus continues and we get another reason this bread is so good – similar to the last one. “The bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
How about that for a factory location? Heaven is perfect. Heaven doesn’t have any sanitation points knocked off its operation. Heaven doesn’t have any bad reviews on YELP. Its customer satisfaction is beyond perfect! Any product from there would be incredible.
I love the Pit. Love the chopped pork, the fries, the fried okra. As far as I am concerned, anything from the Pit is great. At least that’s what I thought. Then, I ordered the BBQ Chicken. It was...ok.
Heaven isn’t like that. It doesn’t disappoint. This bread that Jesus speaks of from heaven – will not disappoint!
Hopefully Jesus’ pitch is working in your heart. It certainly excited the people. 34 “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.”
Their mouths were watering. Their stomachs were growling. I’m sure a few of them even held out their hands.
35 Jesus sighed. “I am the bread of life.
This fits in with what Jesus said earlier. The work of God is to Believe in the one he sent. The food Jesus was talking of wasn’t some kind of food that you at with your mouth and tasted with your lips. It wasn’t an inanimate object.
It was himself. His very being. A being that God had sent for them. A being that would go to the cross to remove their sins. A being that would rise from the dead on a glorious Easter Sunday.
A being that feeds our souls.
When tired? Jesus makes us strong.
When hopeless? Jesus gives us hope.
When sinning? Jesus gives us rebuke.
When guilty? Jesus forgives our sins.
When doubting? Jesus gives assurance.
When facing death? Jesus makes us live forever!
So get up. What are you waiting for? Feast on the bread of Life. It doesn’t come in packages. You can’t buy it at the store. It doesn’t grow in the fields. It comes to you in the Word of God. It comes to you in the Gospel. It comes to you in the message of Jesus your Savior.
Start your day with a balanced breakfast -- a prayer and a bible reading. Listen on your iPhone if you have to. Don't forget the Bread of Life! Amen.
Are you significant?
One of the things I like about CNN.com is that as soon as you get to their webpage you are able to see what the most important stories of the day are. They have a "Buzzworthy" bar up in the corner that keeps track of which stories have had the most views.
About three weeks ago is when the chemical warfare attack in Syria happened. I signed on to that site thinking that the talks that ensued and the investigation that followed were significant.
And, to a certain extent, it was. I found it ranked the number two most trending story.
But it wasn't number one. There was lots more web traffic devoted to an entirely different topic.
If you don't know what that is, it's ok. Don't Google it. You're better off not knowing. Just know that a young Miley Cyrus did something that wasn’t so appropriate at an awards show.
It's amazing how our culture defines significance. We have become convinced that significance comes when you have millions of views on your YouTube video, thousands of Facebook friends, and hundreds of Twitter followers.
This is why people film their children biting one another's fingers and dress their cats up like Yankee Doodle! Because they think that these stunts will make them significant?
This is the same reason that reality stars act over the top. For rating and invites back to the All Star version (As if they didn't know that they'd be on an island fending for food when they signed up for Survivor.) It's why pop stars come to music awards shows in dresses made entirely of meat. These are all ways for people to say: "Hey World, I'm significant!"
In this world of self-made stardom, I wonder if we aren't affected. Maybe, you have the idea that unless you develop some sort of talent and get past the first round of America's Got Talent you cannot truly say that you're significant. And maybe, that's a dream of your. Maybe, you long to have your name in 14 point bold print at the bottom of the CNN website highlighting how "You did something significant."
And since you haven't made it yet, then, maybe, you've begun to think of yourself as insignificant. Pathetic. Never going to do anything worthwhile.
If that's the case, may I suggest that we look beyond B -rate daytime TV to discover what really makes someone significant. Let's look to Jesus, a man whose words and work are only growing in significance thousands of years later.
We’re looking at John 13:34-35. And it sure is significant. Jesus calls their attention to what he's about to tell them by saying, "A new command I have for you..."
Perhaps the disciples’ ears perked up. They had devoted years of their life to Jesus and now, maybe, it was going to pay off. Maybe, this was finally the time that he would tell them how they were going to make a difference. How they would overtake the Roman empire. How they would become significant and be Jesus’ secretary of state and treasury in his earthly kingdom.
But Jesus had something entirely different in mind.
He said, "A new command I have for you: love one another as I have loved you."
Do you think the disciples were just a little bit disappointed? No glorious battle. No fanfare. No revelation. Just love one another.
Maybe you're disappointed too. "Is that all there is to being significant? It doesn't take much to impress this Jesus does it? Because if all Jesus wants me to do is to love one another, then, I've done that. Most of the time. So, I guess, I've earned my significance, right?”
There are two letters you aren’t paying attention to. Jesus didn't simply say, "love one another." He also included a little word that changes the scope of what we're talking about. "as" Two letters in English. Two letters in the original Greek. Same concept. "Similar to, the same as, in the same way." It changes the entire scope of what Jesus is asking us to do.
Look at the passage again: "Love one another, as I have loved you."
Do you love your friends and family like Jesus? Consider the following:
1. First off, Jesus' love was never too busy for anyone! He always helped whenever people needed it, even if he was supposed to be doing something else. It's why he stopped to help the bleeding woman as he was heading to help a sick girl—a matter of life and death! It's why, when he went up to a mountain to catch a quick break, he heard a crowd, turned around, and gave his attention to thousands of people who were looking for his help!
Compare Jesus to you. Do you always take the time to show love to others? Do you drop the TV remote to go help your spouse with the groceries? After a long, hard day at work, are you super willing and ready to listen to your friends day at work on the phone? When you are supposed to be at the Day Spa appointment, do you respond to your kids request to "play a game?"
If you have ever been too busy to show love, then you haven't loved like Jesus.
2. One of the reasons Jesus was always ready to help, was that Jesus always thought of other people first! His actions were backed up by his thought process. He thought of helping others before his own safety. He was hungry and he fed others. He was tired and he got up to deal with everyone else's fears.
What about you? When you are filling out your schedule, is it more important for you to block out "HELPING OTHERS" time or "ME" time? When it comes to spending money, do you insist it go towards something for someone else in the family? Or do you think it would be better spent on your hobby? Do you ever help some one out because it's helpful to them? Or because it makes you feel good? Or maybe they'll owe you a favor later?
If you have ever been thinking about yourself, instead of thinking of others, then you haven't loved like Jesus.
3. Finally, consider this: Jesus put others first, that included: his enemies! He healed the daughter of one who was his enemy's friend. He reached out and healed the ear of a soldier who had come to arrest him. Goodness, even when his enemies were nailing him hand and foot to a crosss, Jesus cried out, "Father, forgive them for they don't know what they are doing!"
What about you and your enemies? Are you always nice to them? Maybe, a better question is are you ever nice to them? Do you say nice things about them to your other coworkers? Do you always send them nice emails? Do you always send nice Facebook messages about them? Do you love calling up your estranged brother to see how he's doing?
Not so much? Then, again, you haven't loved like Jesus.
So, show of hands. Who here has loved like Jesus? Who here qualifies as "Significant"?
This is a big deal! Because if we don't qualify as significant in God's eyes. Then, we are insignificant. Worthless.
Why? Because “God is love.” (1 John 4:8) And anything that isn't loving, is worthless to him! Evil. Selfish. Sin. These are the things that are worthless to God. 1 John 4:8 says, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
It makes sense too. It's like a dentist being given a tube of toothpaste made entirely out of Hershey’s chocolate syrup. Not only is it worthless for what he has in mind, but it actually works against him!
So it is with God. He hates evil. He hates evil doers. They are worthless to his good plans.
And what do you do with worthless things?
Well, garbage men takes worthless things to the incinerator. They have it burned.
God threatens the same burning destruction to all evildoers.
Do you see the horror of our situation? We are the evil ones. We are the one's whose love is worthless in God's sight. And we are the ones who deserve to be treated as the worthless, insignificant creatures that we are.
We have not loved like Jesus, but thank God Jesus still loved like Jesus.
When you think about Jesus' last days, they don't seem very significant. He was arrested in a garden. He was quickly put on trial without any audience. He was beaten and bloodied till he looked like any other criminal who had been in a brawl. Then, he went to the hill where they killed every other criminal. There, he was nailed to a big piece of wood like every other criminal. There he was spat on. Ridiculed. Mocked. Despised.
Thought of as worthless.
And when he died, I'm sure everyone was convinced that Jesus was exactly that: worthless.
That is, until Sunday morning. Until the soldiers on guard fainted at the sight of an angel. Until a few women discovered an empty tomb. Until one woman--then a man---then a few more--than a large group--- saw Jesus...alive!
Now in my book that doesn''t happen too often. In fact, it never happens. There aren't any resurrections on YouTube. Nor will you find any "I will rise from the dead." Tweets from beyond the grave.
But Jesus did rise from the dead! And it's absolutely significant!
But it's not remotely significant on the CNN radar compared with what happened behind the curtain.
Picture a courtroom. There sits the judge. It’s God Almighty. Eyes of blazing red. His gavel, a lightning bolt. HE hates sin and he hates injustice.
Before him stands the one on trial. Sad. Nervous. Scared before the All Powerful judge.
The Prosecution steps forward. It’s the devil. He smirks, "This person is a sinner! He sold his soul to me. I offered him a chance to be significant in his earthly life and he fell for it! He chose significance. The temporal. The day to day in exchange for spending eternity with me. Now it's time to finish our agreement. God, send this person to hell!”
There's silence. The angels in the courtroom look toward the ground with sadness. The devil smirks, because he thinks he's won. God Almighty in all his wrath lifts his gavel. Soon it will come thundering down with a verdict of "guilty!"
Everyone looks across the courtroom. It's Jesus. Hand raised.
He says, "Don't punish him/her. I'll take the punishment. I'll do it God. I'll suffer hell as long as they don't have to."
And the devil gets incredulous! "Why? This is ludicrous! Why? Why would you do that?" It's what they deserve.”
"Because," Jesus says, "because I love that one."
Think about that. Jesus thought (and still thinks) you are most significant.
Want proof? Jesus came to earth and he suffered for you. He died for you. He rose from the dead for you! You were worth his blood. You were worth his soul. You were worth every awful, terrible moment on that awful, terrible cross.
And now, think about this, even if your name is never in big Hollywood light or on the front page of the CNN website or running around the bottom scroller of WRAL news, your name is written in heaven! It's reserving a spot for you. A spot that's your through faith in Jesus!
Jesus says, “I find you significant. Now, do significant things!? Love one another. Jesus says "because this is how they will know that you are my disciples when you love one another."
Think about that: Jesus wants you to show love, not to gain a better name for yourself, but to share his name with others.
Think about what we've already talked about in this series. : Jesus wants others to share the peace of sins forgiven that you already know. He wants others to share the joy of salvation that you have in your heart. He wants others to hold to the hope of eternal riches that get us through the struggles of the day to day. He wants others to feel love, perfect love. The love of a God who gave his life for you and for me.
So...love one another! It's so significant!
You can almost read the heavenly headlines now: "Mother, gets three children dressed and brings them all to church on Sunday--people are impressed" "Dad, reads a devotion to his family at the dinner table, even though the game was on." "Wife forgives husband." "Husband forgives wife." "Grandma offers to take child to Sunday School." "Man overcomes fear and invites neighbor to Back to Church Sunday!"
Brothers and sisters, these are the things of significance. The day to day. The love. The sharing of Jesus' love for the sake of Jesus' love.
May our prayer be that God guide us to live lives of love for him, because that's significant. Amen.
Have you read it recently? What's your favorite verse? Where can you find this
book in the Bible?
Did you even know Haggai was a book of the
Careful now. When you're looking for it, don't blink. It's
38 verses long. Two chapters. Two pages.
But there are some powerful words of the Lord in this tiny book. Words that have a lot to say about our final cross. Words about the Cross of Giving.
Haggai was a prophet who preached to the Israelites who had returned from around a 70 year exile from their native
Think about that. A group of people who had lived in a foreign land for 70 years. Most were probably born in Babylon and had never seen their homeland. The few that had would have had foggy memories at best. This homeland was the stuff of dreams. They had heard stories about the land of milk and honey, but had never used either of them in their breakfast bowl of Corn Flakes. They had probably heard of the strong wall that surrounded Jerusalem, but had not so much as a memory of what it might have looked like. They had listened to accounts of the beautiful temple of the LORD, but these exiles could only imagine what such a temple might have looked like.
They had nothing of their own heritage. Instead, everything they had grown up Babylonian. Babylonian architecture. Babylonian stores. Babylonian marketplaces. The Israelites in captivity ate Babylonian food, lived in Babylonian houses, sat at Babylonian tables...while they dreamed of one day having their own homes again.
Then, things changed. By the decree of the Persian king who had defeated the Babylonians that enslaved them, they were suddenly freed. They were sent back to their homeland. Their dreams would become a reality.
And that's what happened. They went back to Jerusalem. They rebuilt the citiy. They built their own homes. Their own lives. And they personalized it: Maybe, one built a fine archway for the door of his house. Another might have constructed a large living area with an open concept that stretched to the kitchen. Maybe, a few even made sure that they had their own man cave--complete with a table for having a grainy beer and talking about the last chariot race!
After much hard work, I imagine they were feeling pretty good about themselves. Things were starting to shape up. They had everything they wanted. Their homeland was their home again! They had made it just as the memories that had been passed down had described.
But their memories betrayed them.
"This is what the Lord Almighty says: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord’s house.’"
They had forgotten about something very important. Do you see what it
was? HINT: It wasn't a half bath, a guest bedroom, or even a wine cellar.
It was The LORD's house.
Make no mistake, this wasn't an "Oh, it slipped my mind because I was busy," type forgetting. They had forgotten because they were too concerned with THEIR OWN houses. Look at what God describes through Haggai in verse 4:
“Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, "a feature of royal houses,"
while this house, My house remains a ruin?”
It's easy to see how this might have happened. One says, "I could help with the temple, but first I need to make sure that the dining room table is gets finished before the party this weekend." Another says, "And I know, I did sign up to help lay the foundation for the temple, but...I really need to get this new grill pit set in place." Even another says, "I know someof the ladies were starting to talk about collecting jewels for the temple, but I can't give them mine. I haven't finished bejeweling the back foyer. I'd like it to look nice when I go out to do laundry!?!"
These people didn't care about anything but their own home. But God wanted them to care about his house.
Maybe, you see the connection. We too are often more concerned about our houses than God's house!
But Pastor, you're thinking, I know there was a "work on the Preschool Day yesterday," but...we aren't adding on to this building right now! In fact, we haven't done anything with this church for quite a while now. How could I possibly be forgetting about building God's house, if we aren't in the middle of a building project?
In 1 Corinthians, the apostle Paul wrote a letter to a group of Christians in which he describes his own building project. He says, "We are co-workers in God’s service; you are...God’s building. 10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ!"
If you are wondering, Paul had no history in the construction business. He grew up a
scholar. I don't even think he would have known how to use a trowel.
Yet he called himself a builder. Why? Because he was building God's house. He was adding to God's kingdom. He was using God's Word to add new believer after new believer as stones in the house of the Lord!
Brothers and sisters, this is exactly what God has called us to do in North Raleigh. He has called us to build his home! That doesn't mean a new narthex. It doesn't mean a Megachurch like movie theater. It doesn't even mean a Gothic like cathedral.
It means God wants us to share his Word. This is how he builds his house. A house of believers built on the foundation of Jesus!
So, how much have you cared about that house lately? How much have you cared about telling
others about Jesus?
Think about it: Have you been too busy worrying about your own agenda of moving up in the work world so you might one day achieve the American dream of owning a charcoal BBQ with your own back yard, that you've completely forgotten and ignored God's call to give others the news about Jesus? Have you decided that you can't give money to help spread God's Word, because you think it's more important to spend that money on a 70" HD Television? Have you decided that you won't give any of your time to help your fellow Christians spread God's Word, because you need to give all your extra time to yourself?
If that's your attitude, then God's Word today says: "You're wrong. You're sinning. You've totally forgotten who gave you all that stuff in the first place.
Look at what God told the people of Israel. “Give careful thought to your ways. 6 You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”
In other words, "All you care about is your "dream home." But did you notice something? You don't have it! Why? Because you aren't the one who gives yourself a dream home...I am. And if you don't want to use the gifts I've given you to build my
I'll just stop giving you things."
It's kind of like a mom who gives her child a straw. You're supposed to use that straw to suck milk out of. BUT kids are smart. They find out soon enough that it's way more fun to blow air into the straw. They make bubbles.
What does mom do? She threatens to take the straw away unless her child uses it for the purpose that she gave it to them!
God gives us everything! Brothers and sisters, if we won't use what he gives us for what he tells us, why would he keep giving it us? Isn't that exactly what he told the Israelites in verse 10? "Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops. 11 I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the olive oil and everything else the ground produces, on people and livestock, and on all the labor of your hands.”
Brothers and sisters, the same threat is for us. If we don't use the gifts he has given us to build his house...to spread his Word, then don't be surprised if he takes his gifts away from us. And I'm not so much talking about earthly gifts. There are lots of rich unbelievers. I'm talking about the spiritual gifts we hold dear. We could lose them. The gifts of forgiveness. Eternal life. And Salvation.
Repent from this attitude. Repent from caring about your house, home, and life...more than God's!
This is what the people of Israel did. From their political leader, to their religious leader, to the average laymen. They heard God's threat and repented. According to verse 12, "they obeyed the voice of their God and the message of the Prophet Haggai, because the Lord their God had sent him. And the people feared the LORD."
Hearing their repentance, God immediately began giving again. This time. He gave a message: 13 "I am with you,” declares the Lord.
Brothers and sisters, we have the same giving Lord. To the repentance, he gives forgiveness for our sins of not being concerned about God's house. He gives forgiveness for being more concerned about our own houses. He gives forgiveness for not using his gifts to build house!
And he gives us salvation. This salvation is the promise of deliverance from this society of greed, disappointment, and failure. It is the saving from that greedy, lying devil named Satan. It even defeats the terrifying selfishness of our own heart and brings us into the selflessness of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Jesus who gives, has given, and will give us eternal life.
I'll tell you what. Whatever kind of a dream home HGTV has instilled into your mind, whatever kind of home you hope to raise your children in, whatever kind of getaway you hope to retire to, it is nothing compared to the riches of heaven. There is no place more beautiful, more peaceful, more glorious than the marvelous home. A home that's free.
A home that's yours. A home that's God's.
Think about that. God promises you a place in him home! This is true because, through faith, God has built us into his house!
Now, my dear friends, he simply asks you to join in the building. Join in the giving of your money to buy books that tell about Jesus. To buy flyers that tell about Jesus. To pay for outreach programs, pastors, and teachers that tell people about
I'll tell you what. There was a young child I met with not that long ago. This child was having trouble in school. I asked her if she knew about Jesus. She didn't. So I brought over a piece of artwork that your gifts provided. I spent time telling her about Jesus since your gifts have made it so that is all I spend my time doing. I handed her mother a book that your gifts have provided so she could keep telling her child about Jesus.
Guess what. Three days later. This child was up front for a children's lesson. When I asked what Jesus did on the cross, do you know what she said?
He died for my sins.
Guess Jesus just added a new addition to His house. Isn't it amazing that he used your gifts to do it?
Fellow construction workers, we are in the midst of a gigantic building project. We are building God's house! God bless our gifts as we keep on building. Amen.
I've noticed that oftentimes it depends on the the time of the day. It In the morning, we think we need to spend time on making Pop Tarts, watering plants, and catching the morning Traffic alerts. At night, we think we need to spend time Keeping up with the Kardashians, Facebook stalking long lost friends, and applying fifteen different kinds of facial washes before we go to sleep.
But are all the things that we 'think we need to do' really things that we need to spend time on?
Think back to Social Studies class back in first grade. There's one major lesson that Social Studies teaches. (Besides that Social Studies is way easier than Math and Spelling.) There is a difference between Needs and Wants.
Needs are things that you need in order to live on this earth. Wants are things you could live without.
When we apply that principle to how we spend time, what are the things that we NEED to spend time on?
For starters, we need to spend time taking care of our basic human needs: Food, clothing, shelter, and sleep. After a long exercise we need to spend time drinking some water. A few times a day, we need to eat meals. We need to sleep. We need to spend time putting on clothing. (Although, how much time we need to spend deciding on which outfit to wear is debatable...)
Then, in order to have these basics needs met, it's true that we need to spend time making money, don't we? This is why we spend time working. 40 hours a week. 50 hours a week. Maybe more. If it is a career job, then we are going to need to spend even more time working than that!
And you might say that we need to spend time on maintenance tasks. By that I mean tasks that directly affect those first two needs. We need to go to the grocery store in order to buy food. We need to install a new kitchen faucet, because the old one spurts out water which we need to drink. We need to spend time fixing a flat tire on the car to make it to work in the morning.
And one of the ways that we perform maintenance, is really something that deserves a category of it's own: Relaxing. We need to spend time relaxing in order to rejuvenate for working for money for basics needs. This logic might explain why we watch old reruns of Saved by the Bell; why we go relaxing at the beach; why we nestle up to a good book. Although, at times this logic can become cyclical: “I need to spend time drinking this Samuel Adams so that I can take a break, relax my mind, and get ready for working hard to make money to buy food to eat and things to drink." (like Samuel Adams.)
Brothers and sisters, I'm not here to argue . Certainly, we need to spend time doing these things in order to live on this earth.
Why then does Jesus say what he says to Martha? Listen again: “One thing is necessary...what Mary has chosen.” Listening to my Word.
Doesn't that seem to fly in the face of everything we just talked about?
Perhaps we need to go back to Social Studies. The social studies book talks about what is necessary for earthly life. Earthly life that lasts 60-70 years if we have the strength. But what the average Social Studies book from Houghton Mifflin forgets to mention is that all of these 'earthly needs” will be of no value in the next life! In fact, when it comes to getting into the next life, none of these things are necessary.
Not at all.
Spending time eating a Subway sandwich will not stop your soul from starving for the forgiveness found only in Jesus. Getting some sleep will not cause your mind to rest from the guilt of yesterday's sins. If you spent 60, 70, 80 hours a week at work trying to make money, even if you had a second job, you would not be able to buy yourself anything that lasts to eternity! Fixing the flat tire may get you to work, but it won't get you to heaven. The weekend at the boathouse may reenergize you physically for the week of work, but it won't reenergize your spirit with the message of sins forgiven, heaven won, and Jesus on your side for the rest of the week!!!
Brothers and sisters, Jesus speaks the truth. Spiritually speaking—eternally speaking---actually speaking, the only thing that we need to spend time doing is learning God's Word.
Think about why that's true.
According to Luke 10:38-42
In a children’s theater play that I saw once, there was a character called Time. Time was an actress dressed in black with a big clock necklace hanging from her neck. Time was a minor character, but made appearances on the stage every so often.
One time she came running across the stage as the narrator read, “Time is running by.” Another time she had wings on. As she flapped across the stage, the narrator read, “Time flew by.” Time even came onto the stage eating a banana, of which she took the peel and tossed it in front of her, only to be “slipping away.”
One thing she never did though was stop.
I bet that’s one thing you wish could happen. Time could stop! As busy people, that would be a pretty neat advantage! Then, we’d be able to get everything done in the day that we’d want to. Or we could stop time, watch an entire season of Survivor, and then go back to work refreshed!
The fact is that time doesn’t stop. It always keeps moving. It moves while we’re sleeping, while we’re working, while we’re playing, while we’re on Facebook! Time keeps moving.
Since it doesn’t stop, it is important to think about how best to spend our time!
In the lesson for today, Jesus teaches us how he would have us spend our time. Take a look at Luke 10:38-42. “38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.”
Back in my bachelor days, I didn't think that preparing dinner for a few guests took all that much preparation. I'd grab a bag of double cheeseburgers from McDonalds, rent a redbox, and wipe the crumbs off the couch. A grand total of 10 minutes, tops!
Then I got married.
Turns out, having guests over for dinner does take a lot more preparation time. We spend time cooking the meals ourselves. Which is, maybe, an hour process. First, we we spend time researching the right recipe in the recipe books. Then we spend time determining if we have the right food for the meal. Then, we spend time shopping. Then, we notice that the cupboards have a smudge on them so we need to clean the kitchen. And while we have the cleaning supplies out, we need to quickly clean the house. And not just the living room and kitchen area. We have to clean behind the closed doors, because “What if they want a tour of our two bedroom apartment's master bedroom?”
The point: Preparing a nice meal for a friend takes time. That is what Martha wanted to do! It's not so wrong. She wanted to prepare a nice meal for her friend! For Jesus, her Savior! Maybe, she was aware that he had no place to lay his head. (A theme from last week.) Maybe, she knew that he was tirelessly at work in his commitment of sharing God's Word. From other parts of Scriptures, we see that she understood that she owed everything to Him and perhaps she had hoped to give thanks to him by giving him the best five star restaurant treatment that she could.
But in order to do that, she was going to need, some help. An all-hands-on-deck type moment.
Fortunately for her, Martha had a sister. A sister called Mary. A sister, who, according to verse 39, sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.
40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.
You can almost feel the tension rising.
Perhaps Martha tried to make her sister aware that she needed help. Maybe, she walked by mixing batter in a bowl really loudly. Then, maybe she tried sighing really loudly from a distance. Maybe, she even dropped a bunch of pots and pans to mimic the frustration of a busy restaurant on a Friday night.
Finally, she makes her way into the living area. She waits for a chance and asks, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Could you tell her to help me!”
And certainly, in our hard working, go get 'em, busy all the time, always stuff to do, American attitude, Jesus' answer is flooring. “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Is that how you expected Jesus to react? Let's rethink what happened.
Martha thought that she needed to spend her time doing all kinds of things. Cleaning, cooking, flower arranging, floor sweeing, table setting, Parcheesi preparring, general busy being in order to show Jesus a good meal of thanksgiving.
But Mary thought that something completely different needed to be done at that time, with the Lord of Heaven and earth at their house, She thought it was needed to spend time: Listening to what Jesus had to say.
When Martha questions Mary's choice, Jesus agrees with what Mary has chosen...but he goes farther than that. Look at what he says: Only one thing is needed. What Mary chose! Listening to my Word.
What about you? What do you think you need to spend time doing?
The first reason: God's Word deals with eternity. It is the only earthly task that does just that! It tells us that we are poor miserable sinners, confused and perplexed by how to spend time on this earth. With misplaced priorities, we spend time on anything but God's Word. In fact, we spend time living in rebellion to God's Word and this will result in an endless amount of time in the fiery lake in hell!
But God's Word also tells us how Jesus spent his time. How Jesus spent his time immersed in God's Word, perfectly following God's Word, in fact Jesus was God's Word! He spent time being kind, gentle, loving, and all of the things that were mentioned in Colossians.
Then, he spent time in an unfair courtroom. He spent time before a crowd of people shouting for his blood. He spent time hanging from a cross. He spent the last moments of his life's time on earth innocently!
There was never time better spent! Because Jesus spent this time dying on a cross for you! He spent time, three days in a grave, for you! He then spent 40 more days time appearing and reappearing to his disciples. Proof that time he spent suffering God's wrath for your sins of misplaced time management was accepted!
In other words, through faith in Jesus, brothers and sisters, you will not spend an eternal time in hell. You won't even spend any time there. You will spend all of our second life—alive! A life that does not end. A life where time stops! Where time ceases to exist! It is certain. Through faith in Jesus, you will spend your next life in the glorious gates of redemption. With the Lord!
Brothers and sisters, this is what we learn as we spend time studying God's Word!
The second reason time spent studying God's Word is necessary is because it strengthens our faith!
If you don't spend time eating breakfast you won't have as much strength to get through the day. It's a fact. You won't be able to concentrate as much. You'll be more tired out. You may not get as much work done as you want! It's why Tony the Tiger and the Trix Rabbit encourage us to eat breakfast!
The same is true with God's Word. If we don't spend time in it, how can we ever expect to get through this life with faith? To be truthful, you won't! Jesus said it this way, “If you think you are standing firm, be careful lest you fall!”
Instead, Jesus encourages us in today's lesson to cherish time in God's Word. To treat his Word like a well balanced breakfast. To treat it as food. To feed our souls so that we don't grow weaker, lose strength and fade away to spiritual death!
God's Word has more to offer than vitamins and minerals. God's Word contains the Holy Spirit! All powerful. God himself!
But isn't it important to do God's work as well? To go and share his love?
There are few plants outside our house. For a while, earlier this week, they weren't doing very well. I finally paid attention and spent some time watering them.
Guess what? Now they are blooming. Brilliant pinks, royal purples, and dazzling whites. They just needed to be fed in order to bloom.
It's the same things with us. We need to be fed God's Word in order to bloom with our actions. We need to read God's Word to know what those good deeds are that please God. We need to be in God's Word where the Holy Spirit dwells who gives us the strength and faith necessary to do these good deeds in a world full of hatred!
Brothers and sisters, there is nothing else necessary for us than to spend time in God's Word.
But let me warn you. Very soon, if not already, the devil, the world, and your sinful flesh are going to work hard to convince you that there are a host of things that are more important to spend time on than listening to God's Word!
Ignore them. They only spend time convincing you that time in God’s Word isn’t important at all, because it is the most important thing of all!
Brothers and sisters, spend time in God’s Word. Embrace the cross of time. Set aside time to be in your Bible. Set aside time to study it with other Christians. Remember how important it is and keep that in mind when you make your decisions on how to spend your time!
Blessings as you spend time in God’s Word this week.