You know, not that long ago I was watching an old TV show and this particular episode opened with the children in Sunday School. And the teacher was telling them about what an awful, horrible place hell was. How no one would ever, ever want to be there. Without being too graphic, she scared them quite a bit, which led to them asking the inevitable question, “Teacher, how do we make sure we don’t go to hell?”
“By following the ten commandments!”
Maybe for you that’s a facepalm moment. Maybe you know better. But really, out in the world, those who only know Christianity from pop culture… well that is what the answer is, right? Christianity is a system of rules designed to stop you from having any real fun and if you follow them (and just how often or how well you have to follow them is a little fuzzy), but if you follow them – the God rewards you with heaven… right?
I probably shouldn’t even ask that as a question. Because how many people who’ve never really looked into God actually think that? Too many. Too many who maybe feel scared for a bit about eternity at night when their mind is a little too quiet, but they calm themselves by saying, “No, I don’t have to worry. If there really is a God, I’m sure he’s a nice guy and I’m a pretty good person – I’m sure God will take me in if he exists.” That’s not just wishful thinking to many people, it’s what they really believe.
But… why? Why this perception of God? You and I know this is clearly not the case, God does not trade works for Heaven, at least not in the way we would make him out to do it. So why does this perception even exist? In fact, not just why does it exist…why is it the dominant thought of every person who doesn’t know Jesus for real? Why is it every false religion, even every erring branch of Christianity ends up with this notion that you must do something to be saved?
The fact is, it’s simply in our nature. Ever since the first humans betrayed God by reaching for that fruit in the garden. They were told they would be like God if they ate it. They wanted to be like God. They wanted to be in control of their own lives. We have not changed. Every single sin we commit comes back to this one basic principle: I want to be my own god. And that includes, if not saving myself directly, at least doing something to help or show that I’m worthy to be saved. It’s one of our strongest natural inclinations.
Can it work that way? Let’s look into history to see. Because there was a time when God made this deal with the people. It was pretty fair, all things considered. In fact, it was exactly the kind of deal that we want to hear. It was a list of rules, a list of conditions in order to remain in God’s good favor. Follow the rules, keep the law, and everything would be fine. God would be with you, he would protect you, and when the time came, he would take you to be with him forever.
Considering what God was offering, there shouldn’t have been anything he couldn’t ask of his people, and what God was asking wasn’t all that hard. If he was to be your God, then you had to give him the proper worship and honor as God and as far as relating to each other, it was all the sort of stuff anyone would consider basic human decency. Be nice, thoughtful, and fair. And if you messed up a bit here or there, not all hope was lost, you could make a repayment for your crime that would pay for the guilt of it. You would sacrifice something you had to pay for what you’d done. Something else could go in your place. All fair enough, really.
Except the problem was that for as “obvious” and “simple” as anyone would call these rules, nobody was able to keep them. Our society would call them basic human decency, and would say that anyone, properly educated, would be able to follow these rules that basically boil down to thinking about others first. But not one of them was able to do it. Nobody has managed to even go through one day without some selfish action or thought. And anyone who seriously understood how badly they’d failed this covenant would also understand that it was simply impossible to offer enough sacrifices for what they’d done wrong. Day and night they’ve have to be at the temple offering those penalties for breaking the law of God.
It couldn’t be done. No one could earn God’s favor.
And that has not changed in any group that claims there is something you can do to please God. It can’t be done. The demands can’t be met and the penance is never enough. And that was the point of the old covenant. This idea that something I do can make God happy with me; it comes from the depths of the sinful nature. The idea that God can be happy with what I do on my own is pure egotism. It is that old desire to replace God with the self. I can save myself, it says, I do not need God, I can be my own god. The Israelites and everyone since including you and me need to know and be convinced that I cannot make God happy on my own. God’s demands cannot be satisfied by us. The Old Covenant as this deal was called, the law, was never meant to save anyone, it was meant to teach us that we cannot save ourselves.
But that’s only part one of the overall lesson God wants to teach us. Because there is a new covenant, one that teaches us what we really need, what we’re ready for once we’ve learned that we can’t do this ourselves. The author to the Hebrews describes this for us in our reading this evening:
15The Holy Spirit also testifies in Scripture to us, for first he said: 16This is the covenant I will make with them after those days, says the Lord. I will put my laws on their hearts and I will write them on their mind. 17Then he adds: And I will not remember their sins and their lawlessness any longer. 18Now where these sins are forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin. 19Brothers, we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place through the blood of Jesus. 20It is a new and living way he opened for us through the curtain, that is, his flesh. 21We also have a great priest over the house of God. 22So let us approach with a sincere heart, in the full confidence of faith, because our hearts have been sprinkled to take away a bad conscience, and our bodies have been washed with pure water. 23Let us hold on firmly to the confession of our hope without wavering, since he who promised is faithful. 24Let us also consider carefully how to spur each other on to love and good works. 25Let us not neglect meeting together, as some have the habit of doing. Rather, let us encourage each other, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Here it is. “I will not remember their sins and their lawlessness any longer.” (v17) This is the entire basis of the new covenant. The old covenant was a deal: “Do this, and you will be rewarded. Don’t, and you’ll be punished.” We saw how well that turned out. God came with a new covenant. “I will do everything, and you will be rewarded.”
Now this isn’t just arbitrary. God can’t just erase what he’d already set up in the old covenant. The law had to be followed and where it wasn’t followed there had to be sacrifice, in blood. The difference is that now God says, never mind all that. I’ll do it. That is what Jesus is all about. He lived an innocent life completely in line with the law. And he grants you complete and full credit for that life. All the things you are supposed to do, all the things you were supposed to do – as far as God is concerned you’ve done them.
And the failures? The crimes? Again, a payment does need to be made. In blood. And that is the foundation of the new covenant, the blood that was poured out to pay for our crimes. Not just any blood this time, though. The blood of God himself. Poured out for us on the cross, just as we celebrate each time we come to the Lord’s table. This blood is the full sacrifice for all sins. The blood of animals didn’t actually accomplish anything, it was just a symbol for what was coming. The blood of God is valuable enough for all.
This is the new covenant that we enjoy. As the author says here, “Now where these sins are forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin.” (v18) There is nothing left to do. We cannot contribute anything to this covenant because it has all already been taken care of.
And the blessings it provides to us are immediate. It’s not just the promise of a future, better life. Yes, that will come. But it changes things here and now, too. By the blood of Jesus, we have the confidence to be able to enter into the Most Holy Place. That was the place of the temple where God’s presence dwelt. And by the law no one was allowed to approach except the high priest and then only once a year after special preparation. Sin divides us from God. But where sin has been forgiven, then there is nothing that stops us from approaching God. This point was driven home when Jesus poured out his blood to make this happen. We’ll see that tomorrow night as the curtain in the temple that separated the Most Holy Place was torn in two from top to bottom! Nothing separates us from our God now that the payment for sins has been made.
We can come before him now with our prayers and petitions, confident that we will be heard. We know that we don’t deserve to have our requests considered, we don’t even deserve to be given a hearing. But our God gives you 100% of his undivided attention whenever you approach him, because this new covenant has made it possible.
And this new covenant changes how we live now. As it’s written here, “I will put my laws on their hearts, and I will write them on their mind.” (v16) The law does not work like it used to. Before we had a heart full of sin and the law came to us from the outside, tried to browbeat us into submission out of fear of eternal death, but it never really changed the heart within. Now we have been cleansed from the inside out by our God and we are each a new creation. The new self that is holy at its core. This means the new self naturally does what God required in his law. Not because it is demanded of us, not because there is a threat if we don’t. The new self lives the law just because…that is who it is!
So as the author encourages us here, hold on to the hope that this new covenant brings. Don’t let anyone chain you back to the law and convince you that your actions are going to determine your salvation. As we grow individually weak, the fire of the group keeps your faith burning bright. Encourage each other to hold to the hope of Christ and let others be an encouragement for you. Keep up your meeting together to worship your Lord, not “because you always have,” or “because it’s what you’re ‘sposed to do,” but because of the benefits it brings your faith and your hope.
And as part of that ongoing building up and strengthening of your faith, celebrate the blood of that covenant that was poured out for you. Treat the supper with reverence, not taking it for granted or as some kind of rote formula you follow, but think about it! Treasure it! Celebrate it! Each time you come forward, let the blessings that God pours out to you through it continually strengthen and encourage you. Let it be another proof and reminder that God has done everything for you. The final day is approaching. Whether it is the last day of this world or the last day you set foot on it, let God prepare you, that your sure hope in eternity is built up and strengthened. This evening as we celebrate the institution of the Lord’s Supper, taste and see that the Lord is good. Rejoice in the new covenant he has made for you. Amen.
We are a chapter away from some big-time action in this Joshua series. But before we get there, chapter 5 reveals some final preparations that God does before he acts. As we take a look at these, it’s interesting to note that God uses very similar things to prepare us before we enter the Promised Land above.
So as always, before we begin, let’s say a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth, your Word is the 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. Preparations for Jericho
Take a look at the first preparation. It isn’t even a preparation on the hearts of the Israelites. It’s on the hearts of the Canaanites. Take a look:
Now when all the Amorite kings west of the Jordan and all the Canaanite kings along the coast heard how the LORD had dried up the Jordan before the Israelites until they had crossed over, their hearts melted in fear and they no longer had the courage to face the Israelites. (5:1)
It makes sense that the Canaanites are afraid. Because if you remember when we were talking about Rahab – the people of Jericho had already heard of God’s awesome work in the desert. They had heard of God’s promise to give the Promised Land to the Israelites. They had heard of all the miracles he had done in the desert to get them to the Promised Land’s borders.
Now? They heard that their God had split a raging, white water rapids in half – wide enough for a million some odd people to cross!
This miracle was from God.
This miracle caused the people of Jericho to be afraid.
God caused the people of Jericho to be afraid.
…this was a blessing.
This fits in well with a question that a few different people have asked me recently.
What did Jericho do wrong?
And to be fair that’s a question I’ve pondered before. They seem to be minding their own business. They weren’t like the Egyptians who held the Israelites in slavery. They weren’t like the kings in the desert that attacked the Israelites. They were just enjoying life in the land of Canaan.
What’d they do to get kicked out of their city?
Why was God attacking them?
Why is God being so mean?
While I understand where that line of questioning comes from (and there’s a lot of forms in it when it comes to Old Testament God), that line of questioning makes two incorrect assumptions:
(1) “People are generally good.”
Do you know what bias is? Bias is the underlying worldview or notion that someone has when they look at a particular event. Bias isn’t always a bad thing, but bias can absolutely affect the way that you react to or report on a certain event.
Take the new:
One network says, “Republican does dumb thing.”
Another network says in the exact same story, “Republican stands up for what is right.”
One network says, “Democratic is whiny.”
Another network says, “Democratic defends freedom!”
Did you know that there’s a bias that humans naturally read the Bible with? A bias that humans are naturally good. Why do we have that bias? Because…(Wait for it)…we’re humans! I like to think of myself as good.
So…when I come across instances in the Bible where it pits God against humans and I don’t find an immediate obvious sinful thing (like Pharaoh horribly mistreating hundreds of thousands of Israelite slaves) my human bias tends to demonize God.
He’s being a jerk.
He did wrong.
He is a monster.
Is that right?
Is God a monster?
Think about it!
Our God created us – he didn’t have to.
Our God gave us this wonderful world – he didn’t have to.
Our God died for us – he didn’t have to.
Our God rose to save us – he did not have to.
Our God did this because our God is good.
All the time good.
When God and humanity clash?
That’s not on God.
That’s on us.
In fact, this is exactly what Scripture says, “The sinful mind is hostile to God.” (Romans 8:7) Hostile means an enemy. A violent enemy. A violent enemy with a bias on the opposite side of God.
Don’t be surprised when your sinful human bias look at a Bible story and wants to rewrite the history to make God the villain!
That’s the wrong narrative.
It’s the sinful, broken, imperfect narrative.
The narrative is not about a good people and a cruel God.
The narrative is about a good God and a cruel people.
And…maybe you know that?
Because you know this world is broken.
To name a few.
And at least a few of those made your heart squirm because you’ve walked a bit close to those lines.
Let me tell you.
That uncomfortable feeling?
Proof that God’s always in the right.
(2) “That God didn’t care about the people of Jericho.”
If you were here last week, do you remember one of the purposes of the memorial that God had his people build? It was so that “all the nations on earth might know that the hand of the LORD is powerful.” (v.24) That’s a key purpose. Because it shows you that with these miracles – with this memorial – with the message that was striking fear into the hearts of the Canaanites – God was making it very obvious:
I am the LORD.
That’s what Rahab did! Remember the prostitute? She concluded that God was with the Israelites. She concluded that God was going to use the Promised Land for HIS purposes! And…rather than fight, she concluded that she would follow the true God.
Was Rahab the only one who knew about God’s power and Strength?
Nope. She’s just the only one who decided not to fight God.
But even after that…Chapter 5:1 is proof – yet again – that God wanted these Canaanites to recognize him as the one true God. He splits the Jordan River. (1) to get Israel across (2) to give Israel confidence (3) to give the Canaanites a warning! They were up against the One and Only God of Heaven and earth! That fear they were feeling? Was a gift! – a warning – a divine smack in the back of the head – to listen to him and follow him, lest they be destroyed!
The fear then is proof that God cared about the people of Jericho.
1 Timothy 2:4 says this about this God of the Old Testament, “God our Savior, wants all to be saved.”
That includes the people Israel, sure.
But it also includes the people of Jericho.
In fact, that’s the ultimate purpose of Israel having ownership of the Promised Land, isn’t it?
God wanted the Promised Land because…
God promised a man named Abraham his descendants (the Israelites) would dwell in the Promised Land, because…
God also promised that same man a Messiah would be born in the Promised Land, because…
God would one day send his son Jesus to be born in the Promised Land, because…
God wanted it to be clear and simple and obvious that Jesus Christ was the promised Messiah, because…
God wanted all people – even the people of Jericho – to read these prophecies, trust in this Messiah and be saved.
What does this mean?
It means this fear isn’t God being a big meanie.
This fear is a gift from God.
A gift to get them on his side.
A gift to get them to listen to him.
A gift to cause them to be just like their friend Rahab – and turn to him as their Savior.
It’s a wonderful blessing from God--
They just didn’t listen.
II. Preparations for Israel
Let’s shift. While this fear spreads over Jericho, Joshua is following God’s instructions to prepare the Israelites. Look at verse 2 (Yes, we are at least ten minutes in and haven’t even made it past the first verse…but I digress):
1. The Preparation of Circumcision
2 The Lord said to Joshua, “Make flint knives and circumcise the Israelites again.” 3 So Joshua made flint knives and circumcised the Israelites…
I’ll say it once so we don’t linger on it. Circumcision is exactly what circumcision is today. It’s the cutting off of skin in the male private area. Interesting note – this was done amongst the ancients for a lot of reasons: health benefits, a tribal mark, a rite of passage, or even simple hygiene.
Biblical circumcision was a visual, outward reminder of God’s personal promise to the recipient. It’s similar to a tattoo of a cross or a key chain that says John 3:16. It’s a very personal reminder of God’s promise.
And it’s permanent! You can’t undo it. Just like you couldn’t undo God’s promise – Even when you faced terrifying things:
In battle and surrounded by the enemy? I have been circumcised – God has promised to be with me.
Walking around a giant, impenetrable wall? I have been circumcised. God has promised to be with me.
Setting up my home for my first year in the Promised Land? I have been circumcised. God has promised to be with me.
2. The Preparation of the Passover
10 On the evening of the fourteenth day of the month, while camped at Gilgal on the plains of Jericho, the Israelites celebrated the Passover.
Remember – the Passover was a reminder of how God saved the Israelites from Egyptian slavery. In the final plagues, he sent the angel of death to kill the firstborn son of every family in Egypt. But to those who trusted God, they need only take an innocent lamb, slaughter it and paint its blood on the wooden frame of the door. Then, the angel of death would “pass over” them and they would be safe.
The Passover was a bit different from circumcision then. The Passover was a visual, outward reminder of God’s public promise to the recipients. He would be with them. He would deliver them to the Promised Land.
And I love the very special meaning behind this Passover. Because it was the first Passover that had ever been eaten in the Promised Land. Look at verse 11: The day after the Passover, that very day, they ate some of the produce of the land: unleavened bread and roasted grain. (5:11) Because they were where God had promised the nation that they would be.
Can you imagine the patriotic spirit that night?
4th of July was cool, but…think of it like the 4th of July in 1779 – they year after the Revolutionary War was over!
That’s what was going on for the Israelites.
They had made it.
God had made it for them.
That night -
They reminded each other.
They celebrated together.
They encouraged each other in God’s promises.
III. What Now?
A couple things from these lessons –
1. Thank God for Fear
Because maybe earlier…you felt a bit uneasy when we talked about sin and being enemies of God. That’s a good thing.
It’s similar to the uneasy feeling that you might get if you head to the zoo and you get a bit close to the giant jungle python. It’s behind bars. It’s behind the glass that’s supposed to not break – but still you don’t tap on the glass because you’ve got a healthy fear and respect for the giant serpent.
Same thing with God.
Fear means a healthy respect and awe and wonder and yes – even a bit of – unease. It recognizes the danger we are in as we, sinners, approach God.
Don’t fight him.
Fall at his feet.
Ask for forgiveness.
Ask for his mercy.
Ask for his compassion.
Be confident that he has sent it – in the form of his Son Jesus Christ dying on the cross for your sins.
Moving us from enemies – to friends.
2. Remember God’s NEW Personal Promise
Because circumcision is no longer a church ceremony. Still – we have a ceremony – a beautiful, divine ceremony in which God places his personal promise onto our hearts.
In Him [Christ] you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism. (Colossians 2:11-12)
See the connection? Just as Old Testament circumcision involves the cutting off of flesh, so baptism involves the spiritual cutting off of sin from our hearts! And what’s more? That sin that’s been cut off has been tossed into the grave.
It’s been left behind.
It is no longer who you are.
Have you been baptized? This is God’s personal promise to you.
Want to be baptized? Wonderful. Let’s talk. And God will make his personal promise to you.
3. Remember God’s NEW Public Promise
In fact, as related as circumcision seems to be to baptism; there is an even simpler and easier to see correlation between the Passover and a different New Testament ceremony.
While Jesus and his disciples were eating the Passover Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. (Matthew 26:26-28)
The connection is greater than just Jesus started the Lord’s Supper in the middle of the Passover meal.
Scripture calls Jesus the “Lamb of God.” (John 1:29)
In fact, the “Passover Lamb” (1 Corinthians 5:7)
And “The blood of Jesus purifies us from all sin.” (1 Jn. 1:7)
In other words, because of Jesus blood – God’s wrath passes over us.
That’s what’s going on when we partake of the Lord’s Supper.
It’s a big deal.
It’s one of the reasons that we ask people who haven’t been through our newcomer’s class to go through our newcomer’s class before they come up here for Lord’s Supper. Because this is a big deal what’s going on up here and I don’t want you to miss it.
And honestly, if you have kind of forgotten why it’s a big deal – come back to newcomer’s class. I’ll call it “review class.” Learn again what your Savior did for you.
I love the ending to this section: The manna stopped the day after they ate this food from the land; there was no longer any manna for the Israelites, but that year they ate the produce of Canaan. (5:12)
Cool. They are no longer desert dwellers.
They are no longer warriors.
They are home.
Though there are battles to come, because of God’s promises – they are as good as home.
The same is true for you.
Humbled by our fear of God.
Trusting in God’s mercy.
Dwelling in the promise of baptism.
Meditating on the promise of Lord’s Supper.
We aren’t home.
But we’re as good as home.
It’s Holy Week. People everywhere are preparing for special services, religious traditions and special ceremonies. That’s why we’re gathered here tonight. To celebrate a special supper that connects us with Jesus our Savior.
But if you go down the street – to the left about 3 blocks. You’ll find another place of worship. Temple Beth Meyer. A synagogue. There’s another one on Falls of Neuse – Temple Beth El. These are places similar to this church. A place people gather for worship. A place for those of the Jewish faith.
And people who belong to that faith are having a ceremony tonight too. They’re gathering together around 6p. Decorations on the table – blue and white hanging from the ceiling. Everyone sits down and they sing some religious songs and read some religious readings – in Hebrew, not English – but still. They eat some bread. They drink some wine. They say, “Happy Passover” in Hebrew.
But as similar as it might sound.
It is not the same ceremony that we’re having.
It’s not the Lord’s Supper.
Is Passover something that is completely Jewish?
Does is have nothing to do with Christianity?
Is something of a different religion? Or does it help us connect with Jesus?
Tonight we’re looking at the institution of the Passover in Exodus 12. We’re going to see that a correct interpretation of the Passover not only is very Christian – but connects us to Jesus. Let’s say a prayer and ask God to help us: Lord, strengthen us by the truth, your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see; open our ears to hear what you want us to hear; open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. A Jewish Celebration
This takes place in Exodus 12. A brief summary of what’s going on. The Jewish people have been slaves in Egypt for 400 years. God heard their cries for help and God decided to use his miraculous power to set them free. He does this through a man named Moses. God uses Moses to send messages to the king of Egypt – Pharaoh.
The conversation quickly becomes very repetitive. Moses tells Pharaoh to let the Jews go. Pharaoh refuses. Moses says that God will send a plague if he doesn’t. Pharaoh still refuses. God sends a plague (millions of locusts all over the land, frogs in your kitchen and bedrooms and bathrooms, a giant hailstorm to destroy all the crops, a week of nothing but darkness over all the land). Pharaoh summons for Moses. He pleads with Moses to pray to God to stop the plagues – then he’ll let the people go. Moses prays. God stops the plagues. And Pharaoh says, “Just kidding. You are still my slaves.”
Until we get to the tenth plague. God tells Moses. “Moses, Pharaoh will let you go this time. Because this plague is awful. This plague is terrifying. I will send the angel of death to kill the firstborn son of every family in Egypt—from the maidservant all the way to Pharaoh’s family. The son will die.”
But God didn’t want that terribly sad result to happen for the people of Israel. Not for his people – believers. He tells Moses the following:
“This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year. Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbor, having taken into account the number of people here are. You are to determine the amount of lamb needed in accordance with what each person will eat. The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight.” (Exodus 12:2-6)
The initial instructions are interesting. God tells the Israelites to get themselves a lamb. Not from the store. Not from the local Whole Foods. Not even from the local Gyro restaurant. (I don’t even know if Gyros were around back then). They are to go out back, grab one of the lambs that their family owns, one that’s almost been like a pet to them – providing wool, blankets, clothing.
And kill it. Clean it. Wash it. Prepare it.
Then, eat it.
But notice it isn’t just any lamb. It’s the lamb without defect. There weren’t any spots on it where the wool wasn’t coming in. There weren’t any sickly parts. There weren’t any malformed limbs or cross-eyed lambs being sacrificed.
The best lambs were killed.
The ones that were in great condition.
The ones that were perfect.
But they weren’t just using the lamb for food. They were also using it for exterior trim paint.
Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the door frames of the houses where they eat the lambs.
Picture that – Blood drained into a bucket. A paint brush. Dipping it into the blood. Painting it carefully, gruesomely over the frame of the house.
On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you.
God’s wrath will pass over.
God’s wrath will pass over because of the blood.
God’s wrath will pass over because of the blood of the Lamb.
That’s what happens. The angel of wrath kills the first-born sons of the unbelieving, unrepentant, rebellious Egyptians. But He has mercy on all who trust God’s Word and trust in the blood of the lamb. The Israelites are set free.
That’s a big deal. A moment in history that the Jewish people want to remember. It’s why they celebrated Passover for years after that – to remember God’s mercy to the Jewish people.
II. With Worldwide Consequences
Fast forward thousands of years. That’s exactly the meal that Jesus was celebrating with his disciples. They were eating the unleavened bread so they could remember how quickly this happened. Eating the bitter herbs to remember the slavery of Egypt. Eating the lamb to remember the lamb and drinking the wine to remember its blood.
But in the middle of the meal Jesus does something different.
He took bread, gave thanks and gave it to his disciples saying, “Take and eat; this is my body; given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way after supper, he took the cup, gave thanks and gave it to his disciples saying, “Drink from it all of you; this cup is the new covenant in my blood which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:26-28)
Why? That’s not how the Passover meal goes.
1 Peter 1:19 says this, “Jesus is a lamb without blemish or defect.” That’s not a reference to his appearance. It doesn’t mean that every piece of beard hair was in perfect order. It means he was perfect. He had no moral flaws. He never rebelled against God. He always obeyed God. He had no sins.
1 Corinthians 5:7 says this, “Christ our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed.” He was killed on a cross. He shed his blood. His body is broken. His blood is spilled – it’s painted on wooden frame. Whoever believes in him is covered by his blood. God’s wrath against his sin passes over him or her. His wrath passes over you.
In fact, that was the point of the original Passover – the whole time! Look at what Colossians 2:16-17 says, “Don’t let anyone judge you with regard to a religious festival…These are a shadow of things to come. The reality is found in Jesus.”
That means the Passover was like a shadow. Shadows aren’t real. If you see a shadow on the ground, try to step on it. It won’t feel it. You need to follow the shadow to the real thing. The real thing casts the shadow.
The Passover is the shadow. What is it casting the shadow?
He’s the real Passover Lamb. He’s the real perfect Lamb. He’s the one whose real blood covers our sins. He’s the one that gave the original Passover lambs their strength. He’s the one who really shows God’s mercy. He’s the one that the Passover lambs were pointing to for thousands of years.
The Lord’s Supper, then, make a wondrous connection with the Passover. As the Passover pointed forward to Jesus – the Lord’s Supper points backwards to Jesus.
More than that it points downward to His Word where he promises us forgiveness of sins, life and salvation in this supper. It even points upwards as it reminds us of God’s final plan for us – because of His mercy – because of the lamb – because of the blood of THE PASSOVER Lamb.
I look forward to celebrating the death of the Passover Lamb with you tonight. Amen.
A Devotion Based on Luke 22:19-20
19 And Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me." 20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you."
John pulled his tunic over his nose. It was a bit chilly outside the city. No walls to cover the wind and no trees to block its bitterness.
Well…not any living trees.
Before John stood a tree that had been transformed into a torture device. It was an instrument of execution. A terrifying spectacle that no one in the ancient Roman world wanted anything to do with.
On that cross hung someone very dear to John. Someone John looked up to. Someone John learned from. It was his mentor, his teacher, his friend.
It was Jesus.
John stood there in agony. With Jesus’ own mother, Mary clinging to his side. How awful it must be for her! His Lord was Mary’s Son. The One that she had brought into the world was leaving the world before her very eyes.
And in a cruel way! His body was broken. His skull had been broken open by the thorn. His hands were broken by a nail. His feet were broken by another nail. His lungs were breaking as his strength withered. Soon his heart would break and all that would be left was a broken, defeated, body.
And his Blood was poured out. It was pouring out of those holes in his head, pouring out of the holes in his right hand, pouring out of the hole in his left hand, pouring down the back of the cross from the wounds covering the back of Jesus…pouring from his feet and pouring from his mouth as his body began to shut down.
His poor friend. Jesus was broken. Jesus was poured out.
Wait…John had heard that somewhere before.
The night before John had joined the other disciples and Jesus for a traditional Passover meal. They had traditional bitter herbs to remember the bitter herbs of slavery in Egypt that their ancestors endured. They ate traditional unleavened bread as their ancestors had so they were ready to leave Egypt at a moment’s notice. They served traditional lamb as a reminder of the blood of a lamb that caused the angel of death to Passover those Israelites houses that night in Egypt.
It was a traditional meal, until Jesus did something untraditional.
Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” (Lk. 22:19)
Strange. That wasn’t a normal part of the meal. That wasn’t a part of any Passover memory.
Then, Jesus took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” (Lk. 22:20)
Stranger. This definitely wasn’t a part of the meal. Sure, they drank some traditional wine. Sure, the wine had some meaning, but that meaning reached back thousands of years to the Old Testament. The Passover was a remembrance of what happened in the past...not a glimpse ahead into the future?
And how could it be his body? His body was handing him the bread, not in the bread.
And how could it be his blood? Unless he had a blister from the rubbing of his sandals, there wasn’t a drop of blood on him.
This didn’t make any sense.
At least not then. But now…now as John stared at Jesus’ broken body and his dripping blood – the truth could not escape him. Jesus was right. His body was broken. His blood was shed. Jesus was the embodiment of that meal.
Which meant that they had been wrong about the Passover meal for thousands of years. It wasn’t just a link to the past, but for thousands of years it had been a predictor of the future. John the Baptist was right – Jesus was truly True Lamb of God.
Jesus was right, he had truly given up his body. He had truly shed his blood.
But if Jesus was right about that, maybe he was right about something else he said last night.
“This is my body…given for you. This is my blood….poured out for you.”
For you. For you.
John found it hard to believe; yet he was convinced that he needed it. John’s life had been filled with pride. He had even had the audacity to ask for a position at Jesus’ right hand. And he had been known to be argumentative, a Son of Thunder, selfishly attacking his fellow disciples.
And last night? Last night he had let Jesus get arrested. He had abandoned him. Sure, he had been at the trial. Sure he was there at the cross, but he was also doing nothing of consequence to stop what was happening to his friend.
He had sinned. He knew what the Old Testament sacrifices had taught. Sin deserved death. There was no forgiveness without the shedding of blood.
That truth did not escape him, he deserved sin’s consequence. He deserved to have his body broken. He deserved to have his blood shed. He deserved to die!
But Jesus…Jesus had said…Given for you. Poured out for you.
He had been right about it’s happening. Could he be right about it’s effect?
Friends, we’ve got the benefit of seeing what happens after his body is broken and laid to rest. We get the benefit of seeing what happens after all his blood is shed.
Jesus returns to life.
It is nothing less than proof that what Jesus said on the first Maundy Thursday was indefinitely, completely, and absolutely true.
Do you have sin just like John? Maybe you’ve got sin that burdens your conscience. Perhaps you’ve got guilt that bothers you to the core. Maybe you’ve got the unshakeable feeling that you can’t be forgiven.
Listen to Jesus’ words: My body broken for you. My blood shed for you.
Those words were recorded.
Those words contain eternal truth.
Those words don’t just talk about John.
They talk about you.
It means you have sin. You deserve death. You need a Savior.
It means Jesus took your sins. It means Jesus died. It means Jesus is your Savior.
In a moment, we will receive the Lord’s Supper. When you receive that Lord’s Supper, you will be receiving his body which was broken on the cross for you. You will be receiving his blood which was shed on the cross for you. You will be receiving true and complete forgiveness.
See Jesus. Trust Jesus. Believe Jesus. Amen.
“Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But Thomas said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:24-29)
Last week was Easter! IT WAS AWESOME! The breakfast was delicious. The flowers smelled sweet. The church was full. The dresses were beautiful. The music was inspiring. Most important of all we heard the foundational message of our Christian faith: Christ is Risen! HE is risen indeed!
You went back to work. Your boss filled your desk with things to do. The pollen took over the city of Raleigh. Traffic was hazarodous as always. Coworkers were rude as always. Your family wasn’t very kind as always. The news was filled with more sad stories of humanity’s sinfulness.
Did it appear at all like Easter was a mirage? Did it feel like it’s a nice story, but how could the message of Easter – Christ risen and sins forgiven – be real.
Did you at all start to doubt?
In today’s lesson we’re going to her a story that literally took place one week after Easter. While some of the disciples were undoubtedly still filled with the Easter Gospel, others…at least one, was filled with doubt.
Here's the story of Doubting Thomas.
“Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came." Maybe he was out getting some food. Maybe he was out for an evening walk to clear his head. Maybe he was returning the Old Testament scroll he had been searching for signs of Jesus’ return to the local Hebrew Library.
Whatever the case. Understand this: Thomas missed it! He didn’t get to see Jesus on Easter Sunday. He didn’t get to experience the initial joy of seeing the Lord alive and well with his fellow disciples.
So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
Can you imagine how excited they were to tell him? “So there we were sitting around in doom and gloom, frightened of the Pharisees, and talking about how awful it was Jesus had died, when BAM! There he was. Jesus. He looked just like him. The piercing eyes; the kind smiles; the gentle beckoning. At first, we thought it was real (I mean, I believed it more than Andrew did) but we thought he was a ghost. Then, he had us touch him. His wounds were right where the nails had been. The spear mark was right where John had seen it go into his side. He ate some food for us and it didn’t fall on the floor like it would if it were a ghost. Sure enough – Mary’s best fish recipe disappeared as fast as it does when Peter eats it. Thomas it was amazing! We saw the Lord. He’s alive!”
Instead of believing them. Instead of jumping for joy. Instead of joining in the celebration with his brothers who hours earlier had been as dismal and unbelieving as he had been, Thomas doubted.
“Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
Ever seen a magic trick before? If you’re like me, then the only reason you are watching magic is because you want to turn to your friends and tell them exactly how they did that trick. You want to prove it wrong. So…when Carl the Magician asks some kid to examine an egg and make sure it’s an ordinary egg, before he changes it into a real live baby chick, you start thinking, “If only he had asked me to examine it, then the trick wouldn’t have worked.”
Thomas felt like that. He felt that his friends had been duped. Or that his friends were duping him. He wanted to examine this supposed resurrected Lord of heaven and earth, because he doubted their story. He doubted their sanity.
He doubted Jesus.
He made his demands. He wanted to “See the nail marks in Jesus’ hands and put his finger where the nails were, and put his hand into Jesus’ side, then, (and only then) he promised that he would believe”
Ever felt like Thomas? Not just about a story that your friend told you, but about God’s Word? Ever doubted that Jesus is real? Ever doubted that Jesus didn’t exist? Ever doubted that this is all one big, useless, irreverent, irrelevant, cruel, and useless joke!?! (Everyone is keeping their necks stiff. Don’t want to be caught admitting to doubting Jesus in church.)
I’ll start us off then. I doubt. Yes, the supposed Pastor, the leader of this congregation, the “Professional Christian” struggles with doubt.
“Really? You think in Baptism sins are washed away? It’s just water and a few words. Do you see any sins washing off the child? Can’t see them. I doubt it.” “And Communion. Some bread and wine, yes. But Jesus’ body and blood? You can’t see it. I doubt it.”
“I’ve never actually seen a dead body rise from the dead…how can you tell that poor widow that she will see her husband again?”
Didymus, Thomas’ second name, means twin. Did you know that? Sometimes I feel like Thomas’ long lost cousin. I doubt.
Do you too? Are we triplets?
If so, then join me in panicking, because we are doubting God. The incredible, Almighty, Divine master of the Universe, who never lies, and in fact, cannot lie, and for whom nothing is impossible has been told, “I doubt it,” by measly peons like us.
That’s a terrible thing.
Because what happens when humans doubt each other? What if you saw a story on the news and you tell your friends all about it and they say, “I don’t think so. I doubt that’s what happened.” Don’t you get incredulous? “I saw it with my own two eyes. I swear.” They still doubt. Then you start yelling, “I mean it. I absolutely saw it. How can you doubt me?” Then, we pick up our bags and leave in a huff.
Is that how God will react to us? He should. How many times has he told us this stuff. How many times has he assured usof his love. How many times has he told us the exact truth of what he has done.
And yet we still doubt God!?!
God should shout at us.
He should leave us.
He should let us stew in our unbelief and eternal misery.
But God doesn’t.
He doesn't act as an impatient, angry, sinful human being, but as the loving, compassionate God who came down and died for our sins of doubt. Take a look at what Jesus did for Thomas. A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”
Again – it’s the same amazing love as last week. Only this time Thomas isn’t just ignoring all of Jesus’ miracles, all of the Old Testament prophecies, the reports of the women, and Jesus’ own words –Thomas also had ignored his comrades in the ministry.
Jesus should call Thomas out and fire him from the Twelve.
But he doesn’t. He makes a second appears. He makes himself visible to Thomas. He comes in peace.
Then He, the Almighty Risen, taking orders from no one, God of the universe, responds to puny, sinful, Thomas’ three fold request. 27 He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hands and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
And Thomas? Well. He’s convinced. Doubting Thomas – becomes Seeing Thomas becomes Believing Thomas. But not just a “believe that Jesus is alive.” It’s greater than that: Thomas said to Jesus, “My Lord and my God!”
Brothers and sisters – Doubting Thomas was convinced. Are you?
Here’s the deal. God is coming at you. Today. Tomorrow. Everyday. He comes at you again and again patiently, reassuring you. God comes at you again and again –patiently, lovingly, reassuring you.
He wakes us up from our stupor by splashing the water of baptism over us – providing tangible evidence that we’ve been buried and risen with Him. He invites us to stretch out our hands and take and eat, and taste and drink and taste that all of our doubts and fears are groundless. He speaks softly in his Word. He says, “I love you.”
How wondrous that our risen Lord doesn't waste his best strength upbraiding us for littleness of faith. Instead, he pours his best efforts into up-building us: fanning dying embers into a roaring blaze.
It’s as if Jesus comes into the room a second time, a third time, a fifty-seventh time – to tell you yet again: “Yes. It’s true. I died for you. I rose for you. Through faith in me, you are forgiven. Stop, doubting, but believe.”
If you’ve found yourself repeating Thomas in his doubts of Jesus, may God also cause you to join Thomas after seeing Jesus yet again, “My Lord and My God!”
Remember our second lesson for today. James 1:6 says, “Do not doubt, because the one who doubts is like the wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” It’s like being a surfer on a wavy day. You might stay afloat for awhile, but then, you fall in. Maybe you get back up on your own, but you’ll lose your balance again. In fact, if you surf much like I do, then you’ll spend 99% of your time on this great sea of your life, doubting. Drowning.
How do you stop? Wince really hard? Tied a red ribbon on your finger? Lock yourself in your room never to see or run into anyone or anything that might make you doubt?
Scripture says, “Doubting is like being tossed by the wind.” Scripture also says that he who stands on God’s Word – stands on a Rock. (Mt. 7:24) A solid rock. A rock that gives us firm footing. A rock that keeps us afloat. A rock that saves us from drowning.
A rock that gives us confidence.
So. Go to Him. If you have doubts, go to God.
Don’t turn on your smart phone and ask Siri, “How do I know if God is real?” Then, listen to her read to you a capitalized and unpunctuated post from YahooAnswers.com and call it good.
Go to God! Pray to Him for courage. Pray to him for confidence. Run to your Bible and hear his gentle voice – “God loved the world (and you) so much that he gave his only Son that whoever believe in him will not perish, but have eternal life.” Join us in church to hear his powerful Word – “Sanctify them by the truth O Lord. God’s Word is truth!” (Jn. 17:17) Feel the gentle waters of your Baptism --- cooly touching you, gently consoling you -- “Your sins were washed away. You were made holy. You were made right with God…in the name of the Lord Jesus!” (1 Cor. 6:11) Approach the Lord’s Table to hear his confident word, “This is my body given for you. This is my blood given for you.” (1 Cor. 11:24-25) Then, taste his body broken for you. Taste the bitterness of his blood – shed for you. Find God right where he promises to be – in His Word – in his visible tangible word – Baptism and Lord’s Supper – Find God and be confident.
Is your child afraid of the dark? Maybe you too were once afraid of the dark. I was too. But, do you know what helps with that, a lot? Knowing that just down the hall—no matter how many times you run there for help, no matter how many times you scream out of fear, no matter how many times you shed tears because you doubt you’ll make it through the darkness alive…
…your parents – are right there waiting for you. Ready to assure you. Ready to wipe away your doubts.
That’s God. Always there. Always waiting. Always ready to assure you that I’m alive. I saved you. I love you. Amen.
Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. 2 As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. 3 For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. 4 They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. 5 But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to men in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit.
7 The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. 8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
--1 Peter 4:1-11
“You need an attitude adjustment mister!”
Ever heard that before? Maybe you were a young kid grumbling as you cleaned up your toys because you weren’t ready for bed yet. Maybe you were a teenager grumbling when your mom was upset that everyday you only told her that your day was “FINE!” Maybe you were a coworker who hadn’t had coffee yet and were just a bit difficult to work with. Maybe you were a spouse who came home at the end of a long day and weren’t remotely ready to converse!
Last week we heard the wonderful reminder that through faith in Jesus we are saved! This week we’re going to talk about what kind of an attitude “the saved” should have. As you read, pay close attention, consider your life prayerfully and answer whether or not you need an ATTITUDE ADJUSTMENT.
1. Attitude or Baditude?
Take a look first of all at the right attitude. The Godly attitude -- Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. 2 As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.
Jesus our Lord is the perfect example of the attitude God wants us to have. For Jesus, following God was more important than any kind of bodily desires. Following God was the most important thing! He did not lust when he saw women. He did not hoard money to himself to fill himself up with plenty of food. He did not let out his rage and start calling his enemies all kinds of nasty names. Jesus always served God first and his body second.
In fact, Jesus didn’t even refuse God’s directive to die on the cross. As painful as that was to his body, he still went ahead and did it. Following God was more important to him than his own bodily welfare.
God wants us to have the same attitude. In fact, God’s Word says, “Arm yourselves with the same attitude.” We might say: “Gear up!” Like the many NFL players who put on their cleats, knee pads, thigh pads, shoulder pads, and cool looking wrist bands, we too need to gear up with this “God-first” attitude each day.
And it needs to be in every aspect of life. Again, if the football players forgets his helmet then he hasn’t totally geared up. If we don’t put God first in a few, hidden aspects of our lives, then we aren’t fully geared up!
Deuteronomy 6 says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” This is a godly attitude to have at home, at work, at play, at school, with relatives, with friends, with coworkers, with people who really aren’t all that nice! Have this attitude all the time.
Of course, this godly attitude is totally different the attitude of this world. The world says:
“Do what you want.”
“Do what feels right.”
“Who cares about anyone else, as long as you're happy.”
What would life be like if we all lived by that creed? Would any of us be happy?
Brother and sisters, you are not to be like that. Peter writes in verses 3-4, "…you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry.”
The wrong attitude occurs when you care more about your physical life than your spiritual life. Then, it leads to wrong actions.
That’s really what it is isn’t it? Caring more aobut your body than God is idolatry. You serve you. Not God!
But this isn’t unlike the world. The world says, “We are only an accidental victor in evolution. We are the greatest animal. Who cares about anyone else? Do what makes you better than others?!?”
Should we be surprised then that they are surprised when they see any attitude that is completely different Peter says, “4 They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you."
It looks like this:
It’s strange to follow God over and above your own physical desires!
So…what about you? Are you strange?
I don’t mean to ask if you spent yesterday walking about the mall like a duck shouting “Here comes the money!” at everyone who passed you by.
I mean “Do you put God first so obviously in your life, that people take notice? Do they find your perspective on life strange? Do they find your love and righteousness so different than the rest of the world that they’d call you…different. Strange?"
If the answer is, no…then “Why not?”
I suppose it could be because you have nice, Christian friends. Friends who live like you do and appreciate your Christian perspective on life.
But maybe it’s because you aren’t living all that strange. Maybe your attitude isn’t about serving God first and your body later. Maybe your coworkers can’t tell you’re a Christian…OR…if you’ve told them you are…they can’t tell that there’s any difference. You swear like them, lust like them, lie like them. You watch the same raunchy movies, you say the same raunchy jokes.
Brothers and sisters, if God couldn’t pick you out of a lineup of unbelievers by looking at your lifestyle, this is not good! You need a spiritual attitude adjustment!
2. The Spiritual Attitude Adjustment
Let Peter tell you why. Verse 5 says, “But they, these people who care more about their bodies than serving God, will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.”
Yes, Peter is talking about those debaucherous pagans here, but isn’t this meant for us too? We, too, will have to give an account for our actions to the Almighty God.
And if your report is indistinguishable from the report of the unbelieving pagan next to you, then…what explanation will you offer?
God doesn’t do cool. Not when it comes to sin. When it comes to sin, his feelings are very hot. His anger burns against it and he sends sinners to hell.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Read verse 6, “For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to men in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit."
The Gospel! That means good news. The good news is what we heard about in last week’s sermon: In spite of our sins, in spite of our terrible atttitudes, in spite of our selfishness, Jesus died to save us:
He saved us with his perfect life, innocent death, and glorious resurrection. He saved us from sin, death, and hell! He saved us to heaven!
This means that by trusting in Jesus Christ as your Savior, you will be forgiven all of your sinful, selfish attitudes. By abandoning your sinful lifestyles and turning to God for grace, you will be saved from God’s wrath!
Because it doesn’t matter what humans say to you. It doesn’t matter if they think of you as a cool mom or a trendy hipster or a enlightened sauvant! It matters what God says to you. And thanks to Jesus: God says you will live!
This glorious news changes our attitude. When you see your Savior suffering for your salvation, it changes your attitude. No longer is “the way you feel” most important, but what pleases God!
The Gospel leads us to suffer in the body for the sake of following our Lord Jesus. It leads us to say “I care more about my Lord than my own body, because he cared more about me than his own body!” The Gospel leads us to hate sin. The Gospel leads us to go against the world. The Gospel leads us to have a different attitude. A better attitude.
A strange attitude.
3. Your New Strange Attitude
Peter now starts listing attributes. Actions taken as a result of this new, strange attitude. Listen: “ 7 The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. 8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen."
*We are clear minded. Verse 7 says it, “7 The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray.” Literally the word means “Sober.” Of course, we think of what happens when people have too much alcohol. They can’t think clear. They can’t walk in a straight line. They make cloudy decisions.
But alcohol isn’t the only thing that can make us drunk: Money. Status. Lust. Things of this world can cloud our decision making and get in the way of following Jesus.
So sober up! Drink the clean water of God’s Word. Flush out the false pretenses of this world. Focus in on Jesus and make following His will your number one goal!
To God, not so much.
*We love deeply. This is not what the world says to do. The world says, “Get revenge! Repeay evil for evil.” In fact, Betrayal and Revenge are two of the most popular TV shows on Primetime. (Does that say anything about the state of our nation by the way?)
God’s Word is different. It says repay evil with love. Love covers up a multitude of sins.
And do you want motivation? Consider this: God didn’t repay your evil with more evil. He sent his Son Jesus. Jesus died for sins. He showed love. His love covered up a multitude of sins:
Make your love the same. A love so strong that it’s strange.
* We are hospitable. We’ve been talking about that a lot when it comes to welcoming visitors to church. Think about what it means. It means we don’t worry about ourselves “I’m tired. I haven’t had coffee. I just want to sit in church and be served.” Instead we think about others, “They might be tired. They might need a coffee. I want to get up, even though I’m tired, and serve them!”
Where’s the line? When might I be too hospitable? Offering a ride home. Spending my time talking to a visitor. Asking a guest at our church to my house?
Be so hospitable that it’s strange! After all, we have a Gospel of hospitality – one who suffered God’s wrath and crucifixion to be hospitable and save us from sin!
Make your hospitality extreme. So extreme it’s different. As Chrysostom the church father once said, “Preach the Gospel. When necessary, use words!”
*We serve. Verse 10 says, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides…"
We’re reminded that God has blessed the church with many different skills, abilities, and treasures. But we aren’t to use those to seek our own glory. It isn’t about who is the best. It isn’t about getting the best status. It isn’t even about being the best church goer. (We don’t go to church to see who is being the best Christian this week!)
Rather we work together. Different talents; same attitude: “Serve Jesus!”
Serve him with art. Serve him with prayer. Serve him with encouragement. Serve him with outreach. Serve him by counting numbers. Serve him by maintaining his house. Serve him by getting communion ready. Serve him by cleaning up the pews. Serve him by serving coffee.
Serve God by serving others! A strange concept to the world.
I believe that we now have a new attitude. And may I propose a new motto to live by. Each day ask yourself, “How can I be strange today? How can I live differently? How can I love Jesus profoundly? How can I make it clear that I am serving God this day and everyday!"
Brothers and sisters, have a strange attitude. Live a strange life. Do strange things.
It’s like that song, “This little Gospel light of mine.” Only instead of a little Gospel light, the encouragement this week is to go out and buy a 9000 watt Gospel spotlight!
And don’t do it just so that you can walk about and say, “I’m pretty good at being STRANGE for Jesus.” That’s not the goal.
Just like the spotlight’s goal isn’t to shine light on itself. The spotlight focuses others on something. It points people in direction
Our spotlight? Our life? It shines on Christ: As Peter ends it…so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
Over confirmation, I hope that these two young people learned a lot from me. But I do have to admit that I learned from them as well. Specifically, I learned some brand new lingo. (Apparently “groovy” and “neato” or no longer “cool").
For instance, I learned about the word “fangirl” or it’s counterpart “fanboy.” Have you heard the word? It's a term used to describe someone who is fanatical for a certain pop culture item or person. You can be a fangirl of Justin Bieber. A fanboy of Harry Potter. A fanperson of the Hunger Games.
This is basically a word to describe "Trekkies" or “Wolfpack fans.”
Today, you confirmands are professing to be "fans" of the Lord. You are professing to be followers of Christ. You are professing publicly to be people of God.
This is why I don't think there could be a better day to start our summer sermon series entitled: People of God. It is important for you confirmands and you (former confirmands) to remember exactly what it means to be a Person of God.
To see what a person of God is we're going to look 1 Peter. Peter is an expert on what a person of God looks like. Peter had spent time with and learned from God himself. He had been rebuked and restored by God himself. He had been given a commission from God himself. If anyone knew what it meant to be a "Person of God"-- it was Peter.
Take then at the first truth he reveals about the people of God in verses 1-2. Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, that's who's writing it. "To God's elect those chosen to be people of God. Believers. That's an expected and important theme throughout Scripture.
But then Peter calls these people of God a strange word: Exiles. Refugees. Strangers. Specifically, in the Greek, the words means "temporary dwellers." They are only passing through and won’t be here forever.
This isn't a physical thing. Peter isn’t saying that they are strangers in south Italy and need to return home to Israel. He isn’t saying that we are strangers in North Carolina and need to return home to the Midwest.
He is speaking to all Christians everywhere and reminding them that they are strangers on this earth.
I. Strangers are Scattered
Maybe you're a positive person. Perhaps you think, "Home is where the heart is." As long as you are with all the people in your family, you're at home.
But the people of God aren't in the same place. They are all over. Look at the words again: scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Asia and Bithynia. This meant that the family of Christians was scattered. They were in small house churches that had to deal with persecutions all around them. They couldn’t even be together and encourage each other. They were scattered.
This is still true today.
It was never more evident just how scattered than this week at the Youth Rally. There were teenage people of God from all over. Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, even Alberta, Canada just to name a few. And it was awesome. Awesome to be with Christians your age from all over the world. Awesome to see 2000 some young people filling up the seats of an auditorium with praise.
But now we're apart. The youth group shrunk. It’s less impressive.
Maybe this has happened to you:
It's hard to be scattered from one another.
That's not all. Remember that word “stranger.” The implication is that there is a permanent place where we belong. This is where our Father dwells. It's heaven.
The history of the world explains what happened. God created earth. He created a beautiful earth. He created a beautiful garden on that earth for humans to dwell in peace with him as his family members forever.
Then, humans sinned. They rebelled against him. They placed a separation between God and them.
This is still true today. We are a part of that sinful, dangerous, guilt filled, hateful, scary world. . We, the people of God, are scattered the perfect presence of our Father on an earth far from perfect.
But there is an interesting phenomenon that takes place when you move away from your hometown. Think about college. At first, you live life just like you did back at home. You love going to McDonald's. You listen to alternative rock. You eat chili the way your mom makes chili -- with the noodles in it.
After time that starts to change. You try different things and your opinions, likes and dislikes, evolve. Suddenly, you love going to Chick-fil-A. You listen to the Country station on the radio. You like your Chili without noodles in it!
Now this isn't necessarily a danger when you are move from one earthly place to another. But it is a danger when you forget all about your heavenly home.
Here's a way for you to see if you starting to get too comfortable with this world. I want you to tally up one for each side after I give you some options. The option listed first is from this sinful world; the option listed second is from God’s heavenly home. Think about which one makes you more comfortable. Are you more comfortable….
...at the bar or at the Lord's Table?
...saying swears in public or saying a prayer in public?
...inviting your friend to an R rated movie or to a Bible study?
...navigating to XXX.com or Biblegateway.com?
…never missing a church service or never missing an episode of Family Guy?
...listening to what CNN has to say about homosexuality or what your pastor does?
...confessing your how awesome you are to your friends or how sinful you to God?
Brothers and sisters, if you are more comfortable with worldly things, there's a problem. You are comfortable with a place that will not last. You are comfortable with a place that cannot exist in eternity. You are comfortable with a sinful world that God cannot tolerate. You are a comfortable with a place that he will simply obliterate.
Repent. Turn to your heavenly home. Ask your Father for forgiveness.
Because He misses you.
II. Strangers are Missed
Your parents will miss you if and when you go to move out. They will call you on the phone. They will email you. They will text message you. Facebook you. Twitter you. Whatever it takes to get your attention and let you know that they miss you and love you.
If you have gone astray, know this: God misses you right now. If you haven't remotely kept up your Confirmation promises, God wants you back!
Look at verse 1-2, "To the elect…you have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of the Father." Do you understand what that is saying? It is saying that God knows you well. He knows you better than you. He has known you longer than you. From before the creation of the world, he knew that you would be born into sin. He knew that you would be born into a sinful world. He knew that you would need a Savior from this sinful world.
That's why he sent his Son. Jesus. The only one who had not left his Father to earth. Jesus, who is divine and out of this world, became a stranger in this world.
But he never adopted the way of this world. He never was lost in sin. Instead, he conquered it. He lived perfectly. He died innocently on a cross and rose triumphantly for you. When it was time for him to go home? He ascended to heaven. He ascended to fulfill his promise from our Gospel lesson, "In my Father's house are many rooms, I am going there to prepare a place for you."
It's as if Jesus is fixing your room. Cleaning it up. Fluffing the pillows. Putting up your favorite posters. Making sure that God's house in heaven is ready for you. Ready for when God brings you home.
But God is also busy preparing you!
It’s similar to a family reunion. As you prepare to go to one, you have to get mentally prepared. You have to memorize names so that you don’t mistakenly refer to your Uncle Joe as Uncle George. You have to remember what it is your Second Cousin does for work again. You have to breathe deeply so that you stay calm when you speak to Aunt Louise –who really upset you last time.
God wants to prepare us for our heavenly home as well. This is why God gives his Spirit. Again, look at verse 2. "Through the sanctifying work of the spirit." Sanctifying. That’s a word we learned it catechism It means "setting apart as holy." It's God's work of changing our lives here on earth.
And it starts with faith. Faith that Jesus is God's Son. Faith that Jesus knows the way back to heaven. Faith that he will bring us...home.
This is why God has given us his Sacraments. The Holy Spirit works through them to bring to faith and strengthen faith. In baptism, God promises that we are his children. Though we are in this strange world, we are his and he will one day bring us home to him. In Lord's Supper, God send us a divine meal. Just like mom sending a care package when you are off in college, God has sent us a divine care package. It's his true body and blood. A promise that your sins are forgiven and you will be in heaven.
III. Strangers Live Differently
So…what now? As People of God, you are strangers. But how does this affect your life now? Here are three suggestions from our text.
1) Live according to your Father’s rules.
As Peter reminds us, “You have been chosen…to be obedient to Jesus.” Obedience to Jesus means faith, but it also means living a life of faith that God and his way of living is the correct way.
Think about this:
Once you leave your parents household, you might feel emancipated! You can live by your own rules. You don't have to follow the rules of your mom and dad.
But then, over time, you realize how good those rules were. You realize that going to bed at a decent hour is a wonderful idea. You understand that it is important to have a clean house. You may even eat some broccoli every once in a while, because it keeps you feeling healthy.
Don't forget the rules of your Divine dad." In preparation for returning home to him, live according to God’s laws. The Ten Commandments? They are there for a reason. Not because he hates you, but because He loves you!
And you know what, nothing will please your mom and dad more than calling them up on the phone and saying, “I am wearing clean clothes. I am eating a balance meal and I am saving my money.”
Similarly God is pleased when he sees you following his rules for life!
This then is a way to say Thank You to the Lord. It’s a way to give thanks to the one who gave up his only perfect Son for the forgiveness of our sins.
And another way?
2) Be proud of your Strange Foreign Heritage.
You can tell when someone is proud of their foreign heritage. They bring lots of reminders of home with them. They have pictures on the wall. Candles lit in certain places. Colors and clothing that express the culture of the former city.
Be proud of your Christian heritage. Proclaim. Be bold. Make sure others don’t just know from your words, but from how you act and live your life.
Be proud of your Christian heritage even down to the soap youuse.
Ever notice that sometimes people from different areas have different soaps. They don’t have Dove or Irish Spring. Nothing like that. They have soap made from honey. Soap made from Goat's milk. Soap made from oatmeal, hemp plant, and even bees wax.
The soap of your heavenly Father is strange too. It's blood. Blood, which stains and doesn't get you feeling Zesty fresh on the outside. But this blood isn't for cleaning the outside. Jesus' blood cleans from within. It purifies us from all sin.
The only thing is you can't see it. You can't look at the mirror and see "Did I wash all of the dirt off the back of my leg?" or touch your face and think, "Did I get all the oil washed off?" There's no way to look and see if you have really been completely cleansed of all sin. Other than God's promise.
So, think about it. Meditate on it. Don’t wash with the stuff of the world. Alcohol, sex, drugs, sports, money. They can’t wash a guilty soul. Only Jesus’ can. His promise of forgiveness. His promise that through faith in him all of your guilt is removed.
Use this soap. Wash daily with the Word. Come to church. Come to communion. Come and wash with the precious blood of Jesus!
3) Surround Yourself with Gifts from Home.
Peter concludes this opening address with the words: 'Grace and peace to you." These are gifts from God to his people. The gifts of grace (forgiveness, eternal life, and salvation for free! By faith alone) and the gift of peace (peace with God -- He has forgiven all sin). These are his gifts to us. Gifts, not to hide in a cardboard box, but gifts to be displayed. Gifts to be remembered. Gifts to meditate on.
I received a cup a gift from my wife about a month after we moved down to North Carolina from the Midwest. It says “Minnesota Twins.” She simply left it with a note be thankful for and always remember where we come from. To remember our parents, the lessons we have learned, and to always be thankful.
Now think of a cross. Brothers and sisters, it reminds you of whose child you are. It reminds you where your dad lives. It reminds you that one day you will go back there.
Surround yourself with this truth. Surround yourself with people who will remind you of this truth. Surround yourself with God’s Word. Never forget it. Never forget where you came from and where you are going.
I remember when I was younger. A tween, actually. I came across a foldout in the Sunday newspaper. It was for the BMG Record club. They had a great deal! 12 CDS for the price of a penny. Which sounded awesome! This was my chance to become a hipster music lover just like a few of my friends. I could build my own CD collection of Chumbawamba, Hootie and the Blowfish and Blue Traveler CDs.
But, there was a catch! You had commit to buying just one more CD in the next year.
That doesn't seem like a big deal now. A $10 CD plus $2 shipping and handling would get you 12 more CDs for a penny.
But I remember agonizing over that decision! How could I commit? Was I ready to commit? Could I make that commitment?
Today's question is of a bit more importance than your commitment to popular music CDs. Today's question deals with your commitment to Jesus.
How committed do you have to be to follow Jesus? Come to church every once in a while? Buy a few “Jesus' songs" for your iPhone. Own a Bible (or at least a Bible app)?
In the Gospel of Luke 9:57-62, through three different episodes, Jesus teaches us that following him is not so easy and that it takes total commitment.
1) More Committed to Jesus than Stuff!
Take a look at verses 57-58:
57 As Jesus and his disciples were walking along the road, a man said to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
Think about that situation. A man wants to join Jesus. He makes what seems to be a bold statement. “I WILL FOLLOW YOU WHEREVER YOU GO!” In other words, “I am committed!”
We might expect Jesus to be excited. To offer the man quick and easy access into following him.
But Jesus warns him.
Think about a fox. He's committed to doing fox stuff. He chases chickens and tricks gingerbread men. But he does get to take a break from this commitment to rest in the comfort of his den. It's similar with the birds. They are committed to doing bird stuff: building nests, finding worms, singing loud songs right outside my window early on a Saturday morning. But in the end, they too get to come home, take a break from their commitment and rest in the aforementioned nest.
Following Jesus? Well, there's no guarantee that there will be these comforts.
For Jesus, these comforts didn’t exist! He left his home. He traveled from city to city. He didn't make reservations at the local Super 8 either. He didn't always know where he'd be sleeping.
If this man was going to follow Jesus, he could expect the same thing. He would have to be more committed to Jesus than his own stuff!
What about you? Are more committed to Jesus than stuff?
Are you committed enough to give up tickets to the 11pm showing of Man of Steel in order to not miss worshipping Jesus the following morning?
Would you give up the pictures on Facebook of you partying hard with in order to be a better witness for Jesus?
Would you give up the next episode of The Bachelorette in order to attend a Bible study with Christian friends?
Would you give up your internet access in order to keep your eyes from sinful images and better follow Jesus?
Would you give up your bottle of Jack Daniels in order to better focus on pleasing your Lord?
Are you committed enough to Jesus to give up stuff for him?
In fact, sometimes we are more committed to the thought of stuff, than Jesus. “I'm committed to my job every Sunday and late into the night. I need to keep this job so that I can one day buy myself a better home. That’s the only reason I’m not more involved with my church and in personal Bible study. I’m working hard. Trying to save up for my retirement home. I'm committed to it!”
Certainly this isn’t the kind of commitment that God was talking about when he said, “Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” (Luke 10:26)
Thank God for Jesus.
Even though we haven't been more committed to him than stuff, he was more committed to us than stuff. All stuff. All his stuff.
Think about what he said, “no place to lay his head.” Meaning, Jesus, true God, creator of the Universe, who owns all things (trees, stones, mountains, valleys...and everything that humans make we these resources) gave all of this up! He didn't care if never laid on a memory foam mattress. He didn't need a Buckwheat stuffed pillow. He didn't care if he never had his own man-cave!
Jesus wasn't committed to any of his stuff, because Jesus was committed to you! You, worshipper of stuff, entrenched in sin and destined for hell, were the object of Jesus' desire. This is why he gave up everything to come to earth for you!
Although, maybe, he didn't give up everything. He did have one place to lay his head. A place that he was committed to. A place he was destined for:
An old, wooden plank. The cross.
Jesus was committed to this cross, because he was committed to you! Committed to save you from your sins! He forgives you for valuing stuff more than him!
And having done so, think about this, God promises you eternal rewards. Heavenly stuff. Other worldly stuff. Stuff without tarnish and beyond battery life. Bodies--imperishable. Ruby lined streets—remarkable!
A room in our Father's kingdom. Your own room. Never foreclosed. Never run down. Always warmed by the love of the Lord.
Brothers and sisters, commit yourself to the LORD more than the stuff of this earth, because he was commited to you!
2) More Committed to Jesus than To Do Lists.
But Commitment to Jesus means more than being willing to give up stuff to follow him. Listen to what he says to another man in verse 59. 59 Jesus said to another man, “Follow me.”But the man replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
This seems kind of harsh. If the man's dad had died, why wouldn't Jesus let the man go and say his good byes?
But the truth is that he hadn't. If his father had died, culture would have dictated that he would be engrossed in funeral arrangements already.
So it seems that this man's father hadn't yet died. But he was getting older. Ready for hospice. Death was at the door.
This changes what the man was saying. In essence, “Jesus. I'll give you my promise. I'll follow you. Just not now. First, I need to wait for my father to die. That'll be a whole process. Then, I give you my word, then I'll be committed to you.”
Interesting. But what do you suppose would have happened when his dad did die?
“Jesus, I know I said I'd be committed to you now, but I've really gotta work on my career first, then I'll follow you. And I need a family, so can you wait until I'm married with three kids? But...wait, before I do that I'm gonna want to see the world, have all kinds of fun in college, make mistakes, and enjoy earthly life. So...can I get back to you after I retire? Then, I'll commit to you! I promise.”
It's what we so often do! Instead of viewing Jesus as more important than anything else on our ToDoList, we put him on the ToDoList....and he's at the bottom!
Even in the Day-to-Day! We get up. “Ok today's the day, that I start the day with a morning devotion. But first, I'd better go work out, because it's nice out.” Then, “I stink, so I need a shower. I can't possibly read God's Word while I stink.” Then, “I better eat breakfast now. Jesus wouldn't want me to be distracted from his Word because of an empty stomach.” Next, “Shoot. I better leave for work in order to beat the traffic.” Then, “Jesus wants me to work hard. So I better work hard and not focus on anything but work for now. I can do the devotion later.” Then, “I got a quick break. It's probably only enough time to check out Facebook. But hey God, maybe they'll be a devotion on there.”
Brothers and sisters, here's the truth: Often, we aren't more committed to Jesus than our own ToDoLists! That's not any commitment at all!
Instead, Jesus says, “Let the dead bury their own dead, (a great play on words) Let the spiritually dead, bury the physically dead. But you go and proclaim the kingdom of God!” Meaning: make this your most important thing on the ToDoList!
This is what Jesus did. There wasn't a single thing that he found more important to do than wining us the kingdom of God! He didn't pursue masters in carpentry. He didn't gather a following to become king of Judea. We never see him talking about retiring in a small country shack by the Sea of Galilee.
To Jesus, there was nothing more important than gathering into the kingdom of God!
And, on a personal note, there is nothing more important to him than gathering you into the kingdom of God.
This is why he's worked on you throughout your life. He opened the door to God's kingdom with his death and resurrection. Then, he brings us through that door with his Word. By the power of his Holy Spirit! He does this through friends who spoke God's Word to us. Devotions that empowered us. Baptism which washed us clean! Communion which empowers us! In other words, God is still working tirelessly on the number one item on his ToDolist: Bringing you to heaven!
Brothers and sisters, make him number one on your ToDoList. Make him greater than your ToDoList. If you don't get all your work done each day, so what? As long as you are sharing Jesus with your words and actions, you are accomplishing the most important goal!
Didn't get to retirement as quickly as you wanted? So what! As long as you were a faithful witness to the one who made you his number one priority, you will have done all that’s needed.
Be committed to Jesus. More than anything on your ToDoLists!
3) More Committed to Jesus than Relationships
But that's not it. For Jesus commitment to him is greater than commitment above stuff and todolists.
Check out verse 61, Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family.”
That's a fair request isn't it? He's asking to go give his mom a hug. His wife a kiss. His kids a high five. Isn't that important enough? Wouldn't Jesus allow that?
“Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
I don't assume that a lot of you have been plowing in your lifetime. But perhaps you've pushed a lawnmower. If so, you know it's important to watch where you are going while you mow. That way you have straight lines and done run into anything.
You ever tried to mow while looking backwards? It's not so pretty. The lines are crooked. You stumble. Eventually you hit a stump.
It’s the same way as we go through life following Jesus. He wants us to remain focused.
I think that we'd like to think that family and friends will be a help to us as we follow Jesus.
But not always:
“Why do you go to church anyways? They just want your money. It's all a big sham!”
“You're telling me that what I'm doing is a sin? You're being judgmental. You're not being loving to me...your own son! Stop talking about it or I'm not going to be talking to you ever again”
“Sins forgiven? Really!?! I know what you did growing up. I know how awful you are. You're going to have to work hard to win my forgiveness and certainly God's!”
How do you react to family criticisms of your faith? If you're like me then, perhaps there are times you've said nothing. You've stayed quiet. Backed down. Tried to preserve friendship at the expense of no longer following Jesus.
“But blood is thicker than anything!”
What about the one who gave his blood for you?
Think about Jesus once more. His own brothers, scripture tells us, didn't even believe in him. They thought him crazy! They thought he was speaking hogwash. (John 7:5)
Did Jesus stop what he was doing so his brothers wouldn't be so embarrassed and would go grab a beer with him at the local pub?
Not so much.
And what about us!?! We, his brothers and sisters, who have denied him, ignored him, pretended not to care about him in order to save our earthly relationships. Has he quieted down in order not to embarrass us? Has he backed down his stance on social sins in order not to turn us into bigots?
Not at all.
Yet, in spite of us. In spite of his brothers. Without their support. Without our support. He marched to the cross. He did what was more loving. He continued his mission to save us. To save us family!
It meant he was alone. On that cross abandoned by family and friends. Abandoned by his heavenly Father!
But none of that mattered to Jesus. What mattered was saving his family.
What mattered was saving you.
So what’s interesting is that by not following his brother’s requests, by making ‘turmoil’ in his family, Jesus was actually showing greater love for his family than ever before! (After his death and resurrection, two of his brothers put their faith in him and probably wrote two books of the Bible: James and Jude).
The same is true for us. Because there is no greater care for family, than care of souls! That means that when we are more committed to Jesus than our family, we are actually more committed to our family than we were before!
It's why we are willing to suffer the ridicule of our brother in order that we might lead them to faith in Jesus. It's why we suffer estrangement from cousins that God might work through your warnings to bring them closing to his family. It's why we are willing to deal with the crying and shouting of kids who don't want to go to church, in order to bring them to church where God takes care of his family!
It was the 1970s.
The Communist soldiers had discovered their illegal bible study. As the Pastor was reading from the bible, men with guns suddenly broke into the home, terrorizing the believers who had gathered to worship. They shouted insults and threatened to kill the Christians. The leading officer pointed his gun at the pastor’s head. “Hand me your bible” he demanded. Reluctantly the pastor handed over his bible, his prized possession. With a sneer on his face, the guard threw the bible to the floor. He glared at the small congregation. “We will let you go” he growled, “but first you must spit on this book of lies. Anyone who refuses will be shot.” The believers had no choice but to obey the officer’s order.
A soldier pointed his gun at one of the men. “You first." The man slowly got up and knelt down by the Bible. Reluctantly, he spat on it, praying, “Father, please forgive me.” He stood up and walked to the door. The soldiers stood back and allowed him to leave.
“Okay, you!” the soldier said, nudging a woman forward. In tears, she could barely do what he demanded. She spat only a little, but it was enough. She too was allowed to leave.
Quietly a young girl came forward. Overcome with love for her Lord, she knelt down and picked up the bible. She wiped off the spit with her dress. “What have they done to your Word? Please forgive them,” she prayed.
It was only moments later that she saw her committed Lord’s forgiving face.
Brothers and sisters, Jesus calls for total commitment. But he does so, only because he is totally committed to you! He proved it in his innocent life. He proved it on the cross. He proved coming out of the triumphant tomb!
May this message of total commitment build you up and lift you up into total commitment for him. Amen.