Whenever relatives come for a visit at our house, there is inevitably an argument.
Julianna says, “We need to clean up this mess.”
I say, “What mess? Looks good to me.”
She says, “There’s dog hair all over the floor.”
I say, “Define all over.”
She says, “There’s dirty dishes on the counter.”
I say, “They need to soak.”
She says, “There’s Dorito crumbs all over the couch.”
I say, “I wonder who did that.”
She says, “It’s messy.”
I say, “But how messy is it, really?”
Today we’re continuing our sermon series called MESSY. We’re going to ask the same question about sin. How messy is it, really? But before we begin, a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth, your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see, our ears to hear what you want us to hear and our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. The Truth about “Minor” Sin
The Scripture today is from the book of James. It’s a letter written by a church leader named James to believers “scattered across the nations.” (1:1). Since we are believed and we are in a nation, it’s a letter written to us.
Look at what he encourages us to do: “My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show FAVORITISM. (2:1)
Favoritism means to give partial treatment to someone at the expense of another.
For example, if you are stuck in traffic on I-440, haven’t been moving for minutes and suddenly a car comes from the on ramp and tries to cut in front of you, but before they do you notice a “Go Tarheels” sticker on their back bumper, well…
If you’re a UNC fan, you smile and let them in. Favoritism.
If you’re an NC State fan, you speed up to make sure that they stay behind you. Anti-favoritism.
Another example from James 2:2-4
Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes…The original Greek language of this letter actually says, “shiny” clothes. If you’re clothing is “shiny”, you’ve got some money: Jewel-studded Armani, diamond decorated Gucci, or maybe a big old Nike Symbol that glimmers in the sun.
And a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. (v.2) He’s got tears in his jeans and a stain on his shirt. He smells a bit stale – of sweat and cigarette smoke.
If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you…” In fact, take my seat. Let me fluff the pew cushion for you, I’ll go grab a bulletin. Did you want a coffee? Some sugars? Should I run to the store and get you a Frappucino? Don’t worry. I’ll take care of it. Just, sit by me.
But you say to the poor man, “You stand there.” We need to save the seats for the rich people.
Or “Sit on the floor by my feet.” (v.3) You’re dirty already, so a little more dirt shouldn’t hurt.
Partial treatment to someone at the expense of others.
And to be fair showing favoritism is common in this world.
Whether it’s favoritism because that person is rich.
Or a man.
Or a woman.
Or they enjoy a certain worship style.
Or they vote a certain way.
Or they were cheering for a certain college team yesterday.
That’s showing favoritism.
Because it’s so prevalent it might not seem like a huge deal.
But look what James says next: Have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with EVIL thoughts? (v.4)
To put it another way:
Wasn’t that favoritism…EVIL?
Even if it was just once.
Even if it was just a minor case.
Even if all that happened was that you took two chocolate chip cookies just to ensure that the person that you like got that last cookie and the other people you don’t favor as much didn’t, the favoritism is still evil.
TRUTH: “Minor” sin is a MAJOR mess.
It’s true for favoritism.
The same would be true for any other “minor” sin.
White lies? Evil.
A bit of gossip? Evil.
Secret racism? Evil.
Selfish pride? Evil.
Pinching your brother? Evil.
“Minor” sin is a MAJOR mess. Here’s some reasons why
(1) It Makes a MAJOR MESS of Kingdom Work
Look at what James writes next: Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? (v.5)
Jesus didn’t have favoritism.
He chose Bartimaeus, a blind beggar and went out to assure him of God’s love.
He chose a Samaritan woman, a non-Jew, non-male, and told her about her Savior.
He chose a prostitute, the type of person that no religious leader would ever choose and he told her about forgiveness.
Jesus didn’t show favoritism.
In fact, it’s because of that reason that you and I are ok. Because God is holy and favors holy things. Yet, he didn’t show favoritism to the “Holy”… (If he that would have been his mode of operation, he would have shown favoritism to no one.) Instead, Jesus showed love to sinners.
He showed love to you and me.
God’s kingdom doesn’t involve favoritism.
And if we, as part of God’s kingdom, show favoritism, then, we’re making a mess of his kingdom work.
In fact, if we do any minor sin, we’re making a mess of kingdom work.
Because kingdom work doesn’t involve sin.
A while back, a first-time visitor joined us for worship. When a visitor does that, I usually follow up with a THANK YOU email. In that email, is a brief survey they can take to talk about their experience. It’s a great way to gather feedback about what first time visitors feel about our worship.
And in the comments the person said: “I like the message. I like the music. But afterwards, in the fellowship hall I overheard some people complaining about the type of fellowship snacks available. To be honest, it really turned me off to the church.”
Even if the complaining was just a couple of seconds, a “Minor” sin.
It still left a big mess of kingdom work.
(2) “Minor” Sin makes you a Lawbreaker
Our Scripture continues: If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. (V.8-9)
Check out the word “convicted.” It’s a courtroom term. If you are convicted, then you have been called a lawbreaker.
You might be convicted of: speeding, a misdemeanor, fraud, even a felony.
Once you are convicted it’s on your record. Employers will look at your record and forever know you as a lawbreaker.
When you do a “minor” sin, it isn’t the circuit court convicting you.
It isn’t the district court.
It’s the county court.
It isn’t the state court.
The appellate court.
Or the Supreme Court.
It’s the Divine Court of our Heavenly King.
It’s God calling you a lawbreaker.
And it’s on your eternal record.
(3) “Minor” sin Leaves the Law Broken
Verse 10 says it this way: “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.”
It’s like God’s Law is a balloon. He blew it up. Full of divinely inspired air. He gave it to us and said: “Don’t pop it.” You’ll need this law, fully together and not broken in order to enter eternal life. So…be careful.
If you commit adultery, Kaboom!
If you commit murder, Kablam!
If you steal, Kablammo!
If you do anything wrong, the law will be broken!
And we take the Law.
And we don’t commit adultery.
We don’t murder.
We don’t steal.
And we think…you know…just a little bit of about some church members…and…POP!!!!
The law is broken.
That’s a big deal.
(4) “Minor” Sin means Eternal Death
Because we don’t have a fully together LAW necessary for eternal life.
Ezekiel 18:4 says, “the soul who sins even a “minor” sin is the one who will die.”
Romans 6:23 says, “The wages of sin any type of sin is death.
Matthew 5:19 says, “Anyone who breaks one of the least of my commands…will be called least in the kingdom of heaven.”
“Minor” sin is a Major Mess.
II. Not a Minor Savior
Let’s do some math. If you averaged one sin per minute, not unlikely at all.
And you lived an average lifetime of 70 years.
And for every one sin during those seventy years, you place one inch of manure into a pile.
By the end of your life, that pile of manure would be 663 miles high.
When you realize that…
It can you leave you feeling mighty concerned.
Because if “minor” sin is a major mess.
If “minor” sin is actual sin.
Then, I’ve got a problem!
The things that I think…
The words that I’m not careful with…
The things I don’t without even thinking…
I’ve got lots more sin on my heart than I ever imagined.
How can I ever be free of this mess?
Look at what James says next:
Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom. (v.12)
But…what Law gives freedom? It isn’t the Ten Commandments.
The Ten Commandments just pile up your guilt.
Pile up your shame.
Pile up with reminders of all your “minor” sin and how major their guilt is.
That’s not freedom.
The Law that gives freedom isn’t actually a law at all.
It’s the Gospel.
The Gospel is that Jesus lived perfectly without even a “minor” sin.
The Gospel is that Jesus suffered death for your “minor” sins
The Gospel is that Jesus resurrected and left that “minor” sin behind.
This is good news if you are feeling troubled by your “minor” sin, because…
The Gospel includes “minor” sin.
It’s not like the visit from the Health and Sanitation Inspector. When they visit, they peruse ever nook and cranny of your building. They rub their white glove for dust. They test waters for PH balance. They look under table, behind doors, and inside locked closets, on the back corner of the highest shelf for any unsanitary practice.
God isn’t like that.
He doesn’t miss a “minor’ sin hidden in some nook and cranny of your heart.
He found it all.
He didn’t miss a sin.
He didn’t forget to check for “favoritism.”
He didn’t accidently leave some “minor gossip” under a rug.
He thoroughly cleaned up all your sins.
All of your “Major” sins.
All of your “minor” sins.
All of your sins.
The reason isn’t because the minor sins aren’t a big mess, they are.
The reason is that
Jesus is bigger than the BIGGEST messes.
Even the mess of death.
Because crucifixions are BIG messes.
Sweat dripping on the ground.
Dirt & decay stuck to stained pieces of wood.
But Jesus was bigger than that mess.
He came out of the grave alive.
He came out of the grave and left the mess of death behind.
He was bigger than that HUGE, VISUAL mess…
…and that’s great news. Because it means Jesus is bigger than your HUGE, INVISIBLE mess:
In fact, look at verse 13: Mercy triumphs over judgment.
Mercy is Jesus.
Mercy is forgiveness.
Mercy is God’s message to you right now:
In Jesus, you are forgiven.
III. What Now?
(1) Live as Those Set Free
Look at James’ own WHAT NOW.
He says, because you are free in Jesus, Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom. (v.12)
Because it’s so easy to think that these “minor” sins are just part of life.
That we are stuck doing them.
That we’ll never be rid of them.
But that’s inaccurate.
You are free.
That means you are free
Free from gossip.
Free from white lies.
Free from occasional porn.
Free from complaining.
Free from arrogance.
Free from favoritism.
None of those sins control you.
You are free.
Free to speak kindly.
Free to speak truth.
Free to be pure.
Free to compliment.
Free to be humble.
Free to treat all people with respect and kindness.
(2) Be Merciful
Because we tend to want mercy for our “minor” sins.
“I know, I can be grouchy, please forgive me. It’s just a ‘minor’ thing.”
“It’s just one lie, please forgive.”
But when others do the same thing to us?
“He wasn’t polite to me, so I’ll be impolite to him.”
“He gossiped about me, so I’ll gossip about him.”
“He didn’t save me a spot in church, so I’ll hate him forever.”
James writes, “…judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful.”
In other words:
If you want to judge others for their “minor” sins.
Then, God will judge you for yours.
And the punishment won’t be minor.
Instead, be merciful, because God has been merciful to you.
He forgave you all your sins, forgive others theirs.
It happened at PreK this past week.
A friend was riding his tricycle and he rode it directly into another friend’s leg.
The other friend began crying, sobbing, screaming.
So, the culprit came over.
It hadn’t been a purposeful hit.
It was relatively minor.
Yet he said to his tearful classmate:
The other friend immediately stopped crying and said: “I forgive you.”
Moments later they were playing together like nothing had happened.
Friends, that’s what God is talking about.
Recognizing sin is serious.
But recognizing we have a serious Savior.
We live freely apart from “minor” sin.
We forgive “minor” sins from our neighbors. Amen.
Have you seen that meme from the movie ELF? I saw it back on December 26th last year -- where Will Ferrell’s character is panicking with excitement because "There’s only 363 more days until Christmas!?!"
But now it’s not funny anymore. Now we are into the holiday stretch. Now we’re on the clock.
And there’s a lot of things that will be vying for your attention this Christmas season.
Macys’ will be wanting you to shop their sales.
Amazon will be wanting you to surf the net.
ABC Family will be wanting you to watch Christmas movies.
Your friends at work will be wanting you to attending an Ugly Sweater party.
Church will be wanting you to do “churchy” Christmas things.
And you’ll be wanting to wrap presents, drink some spiked egg nog, and curl up to some Bing Crosby at around 5pm.
There’s a lot of ways to prepare for Christmas. But are all of them good?
And I checked – you can find all kinds of Google articles on the “10 Most important Christmas things to spend time on” this holiday season.
But as cool and awesome as the internet is – maybe there’s somewhere else we can look for guidance on the holiday season.
Something that’s been around a lot longer.
Something that’s been around for every Christmas ever celebrated – and even a few before Christmas even happened.
Today we are going to start our series from God’s Word called Old Fashioned Christmas. We are going to look at how people prepared for Christmas – before there was Christmas! As we take a look at these Old Testament (before Jesus) Scripture readings, we’re going to get some divine guidance on our holiday season. Before we do that today, please join me in a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see. Open our ears to hear what you want us to hear. Open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. Time Without God?
We’re going to start this week in Isaiah chapters 1 and 2. Isaiah is a prophet who lived about 600 some years before Jesus was ever born. That means – he lived hundreds of years before anyone ever heard of Christmas – thousands of years before Walmart ever put their first Christmas tree display up in July.
At the time of Isaiah, the scene wasn’t exactly the peaceful, Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire situation that we think of today.
Look at what Isaiah writes about the state of Israel:
Your whole head is injured, your whole heart afflicted. From the sole of your foot to the top of your head there is no soundness—only wounds and welts and open sores, not cleansed or bandaged…your country is desolate, your cities burned with fire; your fields are stripped by foreigners right before you, laid waste as when overthrown by strangers. Daughter Zion (that’s an ancient phrase meaning “Jerusalem”) is left like a shelter in a vineyard, like a hut in a cucumber field…” (1:6-8)
Ever been to a cucumber farm before? Me neither. But I love that illustration. Because during the peak cucumber season, the little cucumber storage huts are completely full. They are filled with vitamins and minerals – and big, plump juicy cucumbers that just can’t wait to be pickles.
But at the end of the harvest – after they’ve all been sold, and the left overs have been given to the local food shelter and the deer have found the mushy remains and eaten them up, there’s not much left. Just dirt. Bugs. A few rotten pieces in the corner. It’s desolate.
That’s how Isaiah describes Israel. They are dirty. They are bug ridden. They are desolate. There isn’t anything nutritious or beneficial about their existence.
But this message would have been strange to the Israelite people.
It says in 1:1 that this was written during the reign of Uzziah. You can learn more about the specifics of his reign in 2 Chronicles 26, but the general impression of his reign is that things weren’t all that bad when he was in charge. In fact, he probably had a good approval rating. He rebuilt Elath – a city that had been destroyed in southern Judah. He defeated the fierce, terrorist like enemies, the Philistines. (v.6) He worked a trade agreement where the Ammonites brought taxes and tribute (v.8) to him. He built towers, and walls, and cisterns (v.9); he had plenty of livestock (v.l0) and he had a well-trained army. (v.11)
The description in 2 Chronicles doesn’t match the description of Isaiah.
But Isaiah wasn’t commenting on the economic state.
He wasn’t commenting on the power of the Israelite drachma.
He wasn’t commenting on the scope of Israelite political power.
He was commenting on Israel’s spiritual condition. Isaiah 1:2 says, “Israel is a sinful nation. They have forsaken the Lord; they have spurned the Holy one of Israel and turned their backs on Him.”
As in, they didn’t have time for God.
As in, they were too busy.
As in, he was last on their To Do List.
WHAT ABOUT YOU?
I think this is a good time to stop and ask that question. How much time are you allotting for God this holiday season? You know – the One who created you, gave you life, has been taking care of you for years and sustains you each day so that you even have enough money and strength to celebrate Christmas in the first place…
How much time are you going to give Him?
An hour a Sunday – because I can use a lot of the service to write down my shopping list plan for the rest of Christmas!
A minute to skim through a Bible passage or two on social media – because it makes me feel better about lingering on angry political posts for an entire lunch break!
Hours at church each week – because To God Be the Glory! And also Me! I hope people see how awesome I am at Christmas – and to Me be the Glory!
We just had Black Friday. Hundreds of thousands in Raleigh hit the shops and the malls -- many of them at 4am! They spent all day shopping and even continued shopping into the night on their computer. Invigorated and excited by the deals that they found online.
But think about it:
4am is no problem for shopping, yet 10:30am on Sunday is too early for God?
An entire day is no problem devoted to parking at Crabtree Mall, but an hour is too long for God?
A weekend of shopping takes months of planning and couponing and mapping out the right area that I should go to at just the right time to get the best deals on the best items at the best times...but I’ll only consider mapping out my time with God, because Pastor said so.
It’s an epidemic in America. It can get us too! Even if you aren’t into shopping. Even if you’re only into Holiday marathons, party planning, wrapping, Christmas concert going, hunting, watching football or just making money to pay the credit card bills in January, it’s so easy to make God the very last One to spend time with.
And that’s where it gets serious. Even though Isaiah was only speaking of the spiritual condition of the Israelites his first prophecy, he was also offering a warning. If the people didn’t have time for God, eventually God wasn’t going to have time for them. And if He didn’t have time for them, then this spiritual destitution, would become very real. It would become very physical.
It would become eternal.
The same warning is true for you. If you don’t have time for God, why should He have time for you?
Eventually – He won’t!
It’s kind of like if you got into a Thanksgiving spat. Ever had one of those? You have some relatives and friends over to your house. You eat some turkey. You talk about the recipe for the dressing. But then, you start talking politics. Suddenly, your good friend is a big enemy. And you argue – crudely and rudely—for the entirety of the Halftime show.
What happens if you don’t apologize and make up before Thanksgiving is over? If they pick up their coat and leave without an apology for you, because you didn’t want to talk to them? Well…The sin festers. The bitterness intensifies. A friendship is ruined.
If you don’t return to God. If you don’t come back to your Savior. If you prepare for Christmas without God, eventually it will be too late.
And He’ll be gone.
II. God’s Time for Us
But don’t think that God wasn’t ever at work for you. Inside these harsh, scary, challenging words of Isaiah is one of the greatest promises of God’s love in the Old Testament:
“Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the LORD, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” (1:18)
I used to be up in Wisconsin. Here’s the thing about living up North—sometimes you don’t get all of the leaves raked up before snow comes. Because -- it snows sometime in early September. Regardless – when that snow melts in mid-March, the ground is a mess. There’s mud, decayed leaves, an old McDonald’s Happy Meal bag, and a brownish, grey apple peel on the grass.
But then – it snows again. The next morning you wake up and there isn’t an inch of grass.
There isn’t a hint of trash.
You can’t see any of the mud.
Just this brilliant, sparkling, scene of fluffy, white snow.
God says that is what he would do for Israel.
God says that is what he would do for you.
Those filthy disgusting sins – the stuff that will ruin a Christmas celebration:
Rude words spoken.
Sex had…and lingering on your heart.
A past filled with yuck! and gross! and God could never love me.
Covered by God’s love.
Covered by divine forgiveness.
Covered by Jesus Christ.
Understand: God was always at work to do this for you. From before you were born – from Ancient times – from times long before the First Christmas ever took place – God was planning to send a Savior. God was spending all of his time working for you. He was keeping a small group of Israel alive from whom the Savior would emerge. He was maintaining promises in His Word. He was working miracle after miracle in the Old Testament to prove that He means his promises and keep faith growing.
At just the right time, He set up a Roman Government that would ask for a census at just the right time to move a young man named Joseph and his bride to be named Mary into the town of Bethlehem – long promised to be the home of the Savior. The Bible says this, "When the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law – that’s us – that we might receive the full rights of His Children.” (Galatians 4:4-5)
Talk about incredible! God used all of His time for you.
And when the Savior did finally come…
He dedicated every hour of his life to you.
He dedicated the last moments of his breath to you.
He gave up his time on earth for you!
He rose triumphantly from the grave to offer you an eternity of time with Him in heaven.
III. What now?
(1) Go to His Mountain
The next chapter says this, “In the last days, the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains…and all nations will flock to it.” (2:2)
That’s because things that are lifted high are easily seen.
Think about it -- how many times have you been driving down I-40 – it’s late in the day. You’re tired. You’re hungry. It’s late. You’re about to pull over and give up, but then, in the distance, you see it: The Golden arches. They mean delicious is on the way.
That’s why churches had steeples. So that no matter what’s going on – no matter where you are – no matter what kind of awful is going on in your life, you can look up and see – a cross. See the place where you can go and find God.
So -- Go to His mountain. Make sure that you have time to be in church this Christmas preparation season. Put it down on your Google calendar as a can’t miss event of the week. In fact, I think you can even lock it into Google calendar as an “unchangeable time.”
But we’re not open all the time. Does that mean God’s mountain is only open on Sundays? Of course not! You can go to God’s mountain without even leaving the comforts of your home. Pick up a Bible. Open it up. Use the Advent reading suggestion that is stuffed into your bulletin this week – Go to God’s mountain.
And please keep in mind that simply having this advent planner, doesn’t mean you’ve actually made it to God’s mountain. That’d be like assuming that once Google Maps is fired up, you’re at your destination. It doesn’t work like that. You’ve got to actually get in the car and drive.
And you’ve got to get into God’s Word to arrive at his mountain.
(2) Walk in His Footsteps
What do you do there? Look at what Isaiah says,
“Let us go to the mountain of the Lord to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways so that we may walk in his paths.” (v.3)
Because when you get to God’s mountains, that’s what you see: Footprints! And just like when there’s a fine dusting of snow and you walk outside, see your dad’s footsteps and try to follow them, that’s what we do on God’s mountain. We follow his footsteps. God’s footsteps lead to some incredible truths.
You see his steps throughout history to ready for the coming of the Savior.
You see his steps throughout prophecy to prepare for saving you.
You see his steps toward the cross – to take away all your sins.
You see his steps off the cross – with a tiny hole in each footprint – showing you just how much he loved you!
This means when you’re at God’s mountain – you don’t just chill. You’re active. Actively listening. Actively learning.
Not playing games on your iPhone.
Not looking up fantasy scores.
Not getting distracted by text messages.
Actively coming up with a plan to put God’s Word into your life.
(3) Live in Peace
Isaiah talks about this on God’s mountain: God will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords and make them into gardening tools. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore!
Which is something that happens during the holiday season. Supposedly, people lay down their differences and stop hating on one another.
Then, come December 26th it’s right back to hating on one another.
Calling people racist names on Facebook.
Gossiping about that coworker on the day back to work.
Leaving a nasty message for your parents about why you’ll never go to their house for Christmas again.
It’s funny. Things and stuff and gifts and cookie and garland and mistletoe and Santa – can make you happy, but they can’t bring peace. Deep down – the problems you have before Christmas are still there during Christmas – and still there after Christmas.
But Jesus deals with those problems.
The mountain of God brings peace.
The mountain of God brings you peace with God.
If you’ve got peace with God, it’s a lot easier to have peace with other.
So what do you do this Christmas season?
It just started. You’ve still got plenty of time. Add “Time with God” to your holiday list. Make it the most important part of your list. Listen to the words of Isaiah:
“Come, descendant of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord.”
It was incredible.
While Jesus was teaching, a man possessed by a demon had interrupted him. He had shouted at Jesus. He had challenged him to show his power. Jesus did just that. With mere words, he defeated he demon. The man was released by the demon. He was healed.
As Peter watched this, something cliicked in his mind. A question. A thought.
Could Jesus do the same thing with a fever?
Granted a fever is not the same as a demon. A fever is an inanimate virus. You can’t just speak it away. You need medicine. But Jesus certainly had incredible power. His mother-in-law had been sick at home. Her fever was bad enough that she had missed today’s activities by being in bed. They could go the herbals and medicine route, fill her with water and wait. Or...since Jesus was powerful enough, maybe he'd be compassionate enough too...
“Hey Jesus! You busy tonight?”
I. Compassionate…To Close Friends
29 As soon as they left the synagogue they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. 30 Simon's mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told Jesus about her.
Jesus doesn’t make excuse. He doesn’t mention that he’s off the clock. He doesn’t say that he needs to get home. He doesn’t get annoyed that he’s been asked to do another miracle. He doesn’t refuse because there’s not a large crowd there to watch.
31 Jesus went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them.
Notice what he uses to heal her. It isn’t Nyquil, Dayquil, Robitussin, Theraflu, Tylenol Cold & Flu, Advil Cold & Flu, or even a bowl of good old fashioned chicken soup.
Jesus went to her, took her hand and helped her up.
This isn’t just coincidence. She had been in bed before this. She was tired. Her body was probably achy. Her knees shaking. Her hands were probably doing that things where they were sweating from within, but cold and clammy to the touch. She was in no condition to do much of anything.
But as soon as Jesus touched her that changed. She began doing things just like many other loving mother-in-lawn who expect company. She waited on them! Maybe she fixed her hair, cleaned up in the corner of the room, delivered everyone some appetizers, set the table, and put a pot on the stove for a meal.
You know--things you don’t do, when you have a fever.
This is amazing. Another incredible miracle of Jesus. One that wasn’t so life or death. Yet – one that he performed. It shows his COMPASSION. Compassion for his friends.
What about you? If you are Jesus' friend there is reason to be encouraged. He is loving and compassionate to his friend.
But what if you aren’t sure if you are a friend of Jesus? What if you haven't treated him much like a friend lately? What if you barely spend any time with him (at church), never speak to him (in prayer), and list him at the bottom of your priority list (below work friends, Hulu friends, and just about anything else.)
Even if you think you have been a good friend, certainly you'd agree that you aren't at the same level as Jesus' disciples were. You weren’t in his inner circle. You weren’t invited to intimate meals with him. You didn’t stay up late telling stories with him. You weren’t one of Jesus’ closest friends.
Why then would Jesus help you? Is he compassionate to those who aren't his friends? Or is he like other humans who kindly bring their friends a lemon tea when they are sick, but complain to the boss that your 'non-friend' co-worker is "pretending" to be sick!
Think Jesus is like that?
II. Compassionate…To All Who Seek Him
32 That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. 33 The whole town gathered at the door, 34 and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.
Can you imagine what that night was like? (Good thing Peter’s mother-in-law was up and ready to serve.) Disease after disease. Sickness after sickness was knocking at the door.
“Is Jesus here? I ran back to my house after what happened at the temple today because…well…here is my daughter. She isn’t feeling well. Can you help?"
“Hey Jesus, this is my grandma. She has cancer. Can you help?”
“Hi Jesus. My great uncle Mordecai is back there. He didn’t come to the door because he has leprosy. Can you help?”
“Hey Jesus. *Cough *Cough* I have a cold. Can you help?”
Some who came to that door were probably deathly sick. Others maybe not so much. But it didn’t matter. Jesus had compassion. He healed them. He had compassion and healed all who sought him.
He never stopped and said, “No not you. I don’t like you.” Or “I will heal you, you, and you…but not you because you like the Tarheels.” NEVER! Jesus had compassion on all who sought him. No matter who they were!
No matter who you are. No matter what is wrong. Jesus has compassion for you.
Keep that in mind. There is zero reason for any of you to feel like Jesus won’t help you! We just saw it. He listens to all who approach him. He has compassion for all! He has compassion for you.
Maybe you know this, but do you practice it? When you are sick, what do you do? Look up your symptoms on WebMD? Head to Walgreens? Ask around for a good doctor?
Those are all fine. But did you notice what was missing? Why not do what the crowd does first of all? Why not ask Jesus for compassion!?!
You don't even have to go to Simon Peter's house to find him.
Feeling bad at work? Go to him in prayer.
Sneezing in the car? Go to him in prayer.
Headache keeping you in bed? Go to him in prayer.
He is compassionate to all who seek him!
III. Compassionate…By Doing Nothing!?!
Now. Perhaps you are thinking. "Fine. But why doesn’t he help me? Why doesn’t he listen to my prayers? Why hasn’t my financial situation gotten easier? I've had arthritis for years. I"ve prayed for it to get better. It hasn't. It has gotten worse!?! Why hasn’t my friend gotten better? Why aren’t I in better health? Why did my dear friend have to die? Why does Jesus continue to help me by doing nothing!?!"
"Maybe he's uncompassionate after all."
The mood has changed. So has the narrative:
35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. 36 Simon and his companions went to look for him, 37 and when they found him, they exclaimed: "Everyone is looking for you!"
It’s easy to understand why Jesus went off by himself. He needed a little bit of a break. He needed a rest. A time to reflect on yesterday and a time to get guidance for the coming day. He needed some quiet time with God. (Something that…if you don’t take time to do, I highly recommend it. God loves to hear from you and speak to you in his Word. Grab a bible. Grab a coffee. Start off your day with God.)
But then the disciples come after him. A little groggy-eyed, but moving quickly. As soon as light had hit people started showing up at the house. Peter’s mother-in-law was entertaining again. The disciples were saying things like “I’m sure he’ll be back any moment.” Maybe – Matthew had stayed back at the house to entertain the visitors with the best Tax Collector jokes that he knew. But these people needed Jesus. They wanted his compassion.
We’d expect Jesus to give it to them. He is compassionate after all. In fact, there’s another instance in the Bible when a very similar situation happens and Jesus goes out to the people out of compassion.
This is why his response is so surprising.
38 Jesus replied, "Let us go somewhere else--to the nearby villages--so I can preach there also. That is why I have come."
Does that seem unfair to you? Does that seem like Jesus doesn't have any compassion? Maybe he's tired. Maybe he's selfish. Maybe he's annoyed. But not compassionate.
Are you sure? Listen to him explain himself: “Let us go…so I can preach. That is why I have come.”
A couple of weeks back we heard a sermon that said JESUS IS URGENT. In that sermon Scripture recorded that Jesus began his ministry by preaching. He preached, "Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near."
This is what Jesus came to do.
In our text, Jesus could have returned. He could have healed people. He could have helped them all day long with their physical desires an their physical health. Once he got rid of all the serious stuff he could have moved on to less serious stuff. He could have helped people lose weight. He could have given people 20/20 vision. He could have made money appear magicaly in people’s pockets.
But he didn’t. He didn't because there was a much more serious matter to address.
If all he did was play pro bono doctor all day long, then he wouldn’t have gotten around to preaching God’s Word. He never would have gotten around to healing what really mattered. The sin sick heart. A problem that results in guilt, shame, death, and eternity in hell!
If Jesus would have ignored this problem, then he’d be like the doctor who sees the cancer on the MRI, but only prescribes a Band Aid and some Neosporin to get rid of the hangnail.
Jesus knew better. It’s why he said no. It’s why he moved on. It’s why he had to preach. It’s why He was compassionate by doing nothing!
Maybe that’s the answer. Maybe that’s the answer for you.
Are you sick? Do you hurt? Have you been going to Jesus in prayer because of arthritis? Have you been calling on him to heal your terminally ill relative? Have you been praying every morning, afternoon, and evening for his compassion and help?
Good. Keep doing that. He hears you.
But perhaps he won’t respond as you like. This isn’t because he isn’t compassionate. It isn’t because he isn’t compassionate for you. We just saw that in today’s lesson.
But perhaps it is because He is compassionate. Because he does love you. Because he loves you more than you can imagine.
Thinks of what happens during sickness. You are more connected to Him than ever. It’s the sad truth of the human spirit. God wants that for you. God wants you connected to Him. He wants you to believe in Him, to trust in Him, to grow in his Word, to come and hear the Gospel about Him, because Jesus is the only one who can save you from an eternity in hell. He is the only one who can save you from your sins!
So understand this: Jesus has compassion for you. This is truth! Even when he does nothing, he has compassion for you. He has compassion for your body, yes. But he is most passionate about showing compassion for your souls.
He died to heal you from the guilt of your terrible sins with God’s forgiveness.
He longs to heal you from the shame of your past actions with God’s love.
He desires to heal your nervousness of God's approvals with the promise of His peace.
He wants so very badly to heal your loneliness with his eternal presence.
In Jesus he does just that.
More than preach about it, Jesus accomplished the message of his preaching. He lived perfectly, died innocently, and rose triumphantly for the forgiveness of your sins and the salvation of your soul. This isn’t something you deserve. This isn’t something you could do on your own. This is something he did out of his compassion for you.
I was having a spiritual conversation with a fried recently. She was very sad. She had a lot of guilt on her shoulders. She had lost her job. She admitted it was mostly her fault. Her child had suffered because of it. There wasn’t enough clothing. There wasn’t enough food. There wasn’t always a good place to live.
Now she realized it. It ate away at her. She was heartbroken.
But then…God. Colossians 2:13 is what did it.
“When you were dead in your sins…God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins.”
Now the tears were different.
Now they were tears of thanksgiving.
Now they were tears that had experienced compassion.
An otherworldly compassion. Jesus’ incredible compassion.
May his healing compassion be with you always! Amen.
The other day something earth shattering happened. My computer got a virus. The thing is my computer wasn’t running slow. It wasn’t struggling to run Microsoft Office. It wasn’t flickering on and off whenever I tried to turn it out.
Nope, I found out that the new computer I received for Christmas had a virus on it from a website I visited. A “pop up” ad appeared. It had a big warning on it: “You have thousands of viruses on your computer. Click here to download our software now which is the only way to ensure that you’ll get rid of it.”
Do you download things by clicking the “x” in the upper right hand corner? Cause that’s what I did.
Sometimes people tell us things are urgent that aren’t all that urgent.
What about Jesus? How urgent is the message of Jesus?
I. …Not on Our Time.
For King Herod the message of Jesus was not very urgent. He had heard it from John the Baptist and he had kind of liked what he heard at first. He liked that John was helping to “clean up the city” and calling out various people for their immoral sins. Herod wouldn’t have had a problem with that. It made his job easier as ruler easier. (Mark 6:20)
That is until John accused Herod of sin. John told him it was sinful because Herod was living with and sleeping with his own brother’s wife. Not his. He wasn’t married. That was sinful.
Herod didn’t listen. He didn’t find that message very urgent. Instead, Herod had John arrested. He put him in prison. He decided he would much rather continue in his sinful lifestyle. (v.17-18)
As much as Herod didn’t want to listen to John – his woman – desired to listen even more. So when Herod promised to his “fling’s” daughter that he would give her whatever she wanted up to half his kingdom, Herod’s mistress took advantage of this foolishness.
“Ask Herod for the head of John the Baptist,” she said.
Her daughter asked.
John was killed.
No one had to listen to John anymore.
No one had to listen to God.
Now, I imagine that many of you reading this haven't just been accused of beheading someone. (If so, we need to talk.) But isn't it possible that you have done the same thing as John did? Not cutting off John's head, but cutting off God's Word?
It's easy to do. It's easy to tell God's Word to take a back seat. It's easy to say "I'll follow God...later..
· ...when they come out with a Bible that doesn’t mention the sin I struggle with.
· …when I’ve had the chance to experience life.
· …when I’m older.
· …when I’m less tired.
· …when I’m settled down.
· …when my friends think it’s cool.
· …when I get a special calling.
· …when I own my own house.
· …when that person that I don’t like that much isn’t at church anymore.
…when I am married.
· …when I have children.
· …when the children leave the house.
· …when I go to the retirement home.
Or, if we're being entirely honest about all of these reasons...
· …WHEN I WANT TO.
Is that how it works? Can you ignore God until you are good and ready? Does God work on your time? Is God cool when you give him a raincheck?
There is nothing worse than hearing your alarm go off in the morning. I was having trouble getting up really early to work out. So not that long ago I downloaded the “I Can’t Wake Up” Alarm. It plays an obnoxiously loud song and it doesn’t turn off until you complete an array of mental tasks: Answering addition questions, solving word problems, putting a puzzle together. It was working really well too.
Until I discovered a brand new way to turn it off. Take the battery out.
Guess what? That doesn’t stop time from coming. It doesn’t stop the sun from rising. It doesn’t stop the day from happening. The same is true with Jesus. If you ignore God’s message to stop your sin, follow him, and study his Word – that doesn’t stop it from being true.
Bottom line – your unbelief and your sinful lifestyle will not slow down God’s coming!
It’s coming all the same.
II... On God’s Time.
Look at the words from our Mark 1:15. That verse alone gives us three reasons to listen to Jesus right now!
1. “The Time has come.” Jesus doesn’t say, “The time is coming,” “the time will come eventually,” or even “Don’t worry you have years until it will be important for you to listen!” It’s a perfect tense. For the people who heard Jesus, the time had come for them to listen.
That was 2000 some years ago. What does that tell you about the importance of listening now?
2. The Kingdom is near. Literally for the people Jesus talked to the kingdom was very near them. Jesus himself is the one who rules the kingdom of God. Thus – he was literally feet away from them. It was time for them to listen.
Jesus speaks to us today in his Word. Where’s the closest Bible to you now? Listening to this in church? It’s about a foot in front of you. Are you a Christian? Listen to Jesus because Jesus is in you. It doesn’t get much closer to you than that!
3. “Repent” and “Believe.” These are imperative directives of Jesus. He doesn’t say “repent” later. He doesn’t say “believe” later. He implores you to repent and believe right now!
Why wait? Do you really want to continue going on a path farther away from God? Do you really want to continue feeling guilt associated with sin? Do you really want to stay away from the peace, the joy, and the confidence of God’s love that come with the knowledge of sins forgiven?
In another part of Scripture Jesus tells the parable of a very rich man. He was so rich that he didn’t have time for God. He was too busy buying fancy suits and investing his dividends to make even more money. In fact, he was so rich that he decided to build himself a huge barn in his backyard. It was like his own bank in which he’d store all the riches that he had collected.
When he finished, it he partied! It was done. His “urgent work” of collecting things and stuff” was done.
Then God came to the party. “You fool!” he said, “This very night your life will be demanded of you.”
Do you understand the urgency? Repent. Believe. The time has come. The kingdom of heaven is near!
III. …God’s Time…is the Best Time for You!
Now maybe you’re wondering. Why does God care so much? Why does God want me to follow him now? Why can’t he wait for a time that’s better for me? I don't go around sticking my nose in my neighbor's business and telling them there's a better way to spend his time than playing video games all the time -- so why should God care about what I do? It's my business.
The answer is simple. God cares for you. And following God on God's time is the best thing for you!
Take a look at verse 15 again. Jesus went about preaching the good news.
Do you know what the good news is? The good news is…
….that when you were too distracted by the urgency of worldly things to follow God, Jesus was not.
…that as death was sneaking up on you to take you to hell, he urgently confronted it to take you to heaven.
…that as the bodies of all humans rested without any urgency in the grave, Jesus came back to life early in the morning – to urgently spread his message that in him I have life!
I’ll tell you the truth – the urgency God expresses is for YOUR Benefit! Not God’s. Here are three reasons why believing on God's Time (right now) is of great benefit!
1. God Loves You Urgently! This is why he came to earth. It's why he keeps calling out to you. It's because he knows the struggles that life brings when you depend on things and people that don't even have you on their priority list.
But God placed you as number one. He died for you! Come and revel in that love.
2. God Wants You to Punch your Ticket to Heaven...before it's too Late! Scripture says the the end of time will come like a thief in the night. God doesn't want you to miss it. The only way to heaven is through faith in Jesus Christ as your Savior.
I don't know any stats on how often people die in this world, but I do know that it always seems like, "it could never happen to me." How foolish! Repent and believe now for the confidence of heaven.
3. God Wants You to have Peace Now. Why wait? Why wait to hear that God loves you? Why wait to know that you are forgiven? Why go through life nervous and frightened that God is against you?
Repent and believe in Jesus – God will not be slow in responding. God says to all who turn from their sin: “You are forgiven!” He rushes to say “You are mine.” He quickens his Spirit to speak to all believers “You will be in heaven!”
It’s very interesting that in direct contrast to the actions of Herod, chapter 1 tells us about a few fishermen. Guys who found their livelihood in hard work. Men who needed to find fish, clean fish, and sell fish so that their families could eat.
Look at verse 17 Jesus said, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.”
Their response? Verse 18 At once, they left their nets and followed Jesus.
Then Jesus meets some others. Verse 20 Without delay, he called them.
Their response? They left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.
Their urgency in following Jesus is impressive. They realized Jesus was greater than work. They realized Jesus was greater than money. They realized Jesus was greater than their family!
God is calling you to abandon work, money or family. These things are not bad. In fact, they can be very good. But God is calling you to place Jesus as the highest priority. To order your life and make him Number One!
Will you delay? Or will you follow without hesitation? All it takes is the next step.
Because if these disciples were serious about following Jesus, they couldn't just say, "I'm following you." They had to literally put one foot front of the other and follow him from town to town.
They needed to take the next step.
What's your next step? For all of us it's different. Maybe your next step is contacting me by email to talk more about Jesus. Maybe you are ready to be baptized into his name. Maybe you come to church once in a while and now is the time to make it an every week affair. Maybe you are ready to join our church. Maybe you are ready to get involved in Bible class. Maybe you need to leave behind that sin that has been gnawing as your souls.
Everyone's steps are different, but everyone's step is the same. Follow Jesus!
The time has. The Kingdom is near. Believe and follow Him. Amen.
From Luke 1:26-38
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”
38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
1. How do you think Mary felt before the angel spoke to her. (Keep her recent engagement in mind).
2. What about the angel's message might have caused her to feel even more afraid?
3. At the end, Mary seemed to be at peace. Why?
4. How are you doing with trusting Jesus right now? What things do you trust him for? What things make you afraid?
5. What promises of the LORD can you remember to help you find peace in this busy season?
PRAYER: LORD forgive me for being too frantic during the Christmas season. Forgive me for all of the times that I get nervous about not having enough money for Christmas or worried about how seeing family again will go. Instead, help me to look forward to Christmas with confidence --knowing that your all powerful hand is with me. The same All Powerful hand that removed my sins on the cross. Give me Mary's courage today and always. Amen.
It's only seven days till Christmas. Prepare your heart by following this section and pondering the questions at the end.
1 Comfort, comfort my people,
says your God.
2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and proclaim to her
that her hard service has been completed,
that her sin has been paid for,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.
3 A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert
a highway for our God.
4 Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain.
5 And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
6 A voice says, “Cry out.”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
“All people are like grass,
and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field.
7 The grass withers and the flowers fall,
because the breath of the Lord blows on them.
Surely the people are grass.
8 The grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of our God endures forever.”
9 You who bring good news to Zion,
go up on a high mountain.
You who bring good news to Jerusalem,
lift up your voice with a shout,
lift it up, do not be afraid;
say to the towns of Judah,
“Here is your God!”
10 See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power,
and he rules with a mighty arm.
See, his reward is with him,
and his recompense accompanies him.
11 He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young.
QUESTION FOR PONDERING:
1. What kind of comfort does Jesus bring?
2. How does that comfort speak to you?
3. How do you need to 'make straight a path' in your own life for Jesus?
4. How has Jesus been like a shepherd to you?
PRAYER: Oh Lord, good Shepherd, thank you for your comfort. I don't deserve it. In fact, I oftentimes flee from your comforting rod. Forgive me. Forgive me for not preparing the way for you. Forgive me for seeking my own way. Forgive me for the sake of Jesus, who came to bring us real comfort. He died on the cross for the full forgiveness of my sins.Thank you Jesus. Praise and glory be to you! Help me share this message of comfort this Christmas and always. Amen.
I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret to being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength. –Philippians 4:11-13
How thankful are you this year?
Maybe, you are feeling really thankful. You made lots of money. You got a new house. You added to your family. You got a boyfriend! This is an all caps, big THANK YOU with turkey stickers on the front Thanksgiving.
Maybe it hasn't been your year. You don't have a lot of money. You lost your job. Your meal isn't going to be much more than Ramen noodles with a few Ketchup packets of contents as topping. For you, this is a "Meh. I guess I'm thankful," kind of year.
Oftentimes circumstances determine exactly how thankful we are at Thanksgiving—and in everyday life.
Yet, in today’s lesson from Philippians 4, the Apostle Paul claims to know the secret to being content--no matter the circumstances. He says in verse 11, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret to being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”
There are really three types of circumstances that we find ourselves in --
1) Without Need.
Paul calls it, "living with plenty." Really it means that he doesn't have a single need.
This is the feeling you might get at the end of a two hour epic Thanksgiving meal. The turkey is in your belly. The triptophan is at work. The cranberry sauce is dribbling between the spaces in your tummy left by the stuffing.
To be without need means that one is truly blessed! Oftentimes, this is the circumstance we find ourselves in. We are clothed. We are full. We have a roof over our head.
Yet, when this is our circumstance, how often are we content?
While I was preparing for this sermon on Thanksgiving morning, my cell phone buzzed about 6 times. No, it wasn't last second text messages trying to determine what time Thanksgiving service started. They were emails. Emails from Best Buy, Amazon, and a host of other businesses letting me know about things that I needed and could get a good deal on!
With the world constantly in our face telling us what we need, how long is it before we begin to believe that we are in need!
This leads to the second circumstance we might find ourselves in:
2) Perceived Need.
“I need an iPad. I need a Fiat. I need a Starbucks coffee in the morning and a treat receipt for the afternoon. I need all 8 seasons of the Office on DVD. I need to be first in line to see the Hunger Games sequel!"
Kids do it too: “I need a cookie!" – as if they will faint without the nutrition contained within the chocolate chip. And "I need the Lala Loopsy," because Christmas will be ruined, if she doesn't have it.
Of course, the truth is that we don’t need this stuff. Yet our minds do such a good job of convincing ourselves of this need that we aren’t always so thankful in perceived need. We aren't thankful because our house isn't as nice as our neighbors, our family isn't as polite, and our job isn't as fun.
And if we aren't that thankful when we have perceived need, what does that mean for when we have...
3) Real Need.
You need help in order to pay the rent. You need transportation. You need food. Thanksgiving for people in real need may be a bowl of Ramen with some Heinz Ketchup packets ketchup on top and a can of cold meat.
It is very difficult to be content when you are in real need. When your stomach is growling from hunger, when your legs are tired from walking everywhere, when your eyes are bloodshot red from staying up and working hard.
What kind of circumstance was Paul in when he wrote the letter to the Philippians?
One would expect him to have been 'without need.' It's easy to talk big about being thankful when you have everything you need.
He was in jail.
In other words, Paul was in real need!
Yet, you saw how he reacted. If these verses don’t convince you, read Philippians 4:4 when you have a chance. That says, “Rejoice in the LORD always, I will say it again rejoice!”
How could someone in jail be so thankful?
It wasn’t because he was looking back. Dwelling on memories of times past with the Philippians. While that may temporarily put a smile on a face, and certainly it will for ours too, it only lasts so long as life doesn’t happen!
At some point, you have to realize that you no longer own that 84 Mustang convertible that you loved so much. Remembering a full belly food coma from a Thanksgiving past will not fill your belly in this year’s Thanksgiving.
The secret to contentment is not looking back. Nor is the secret to contentment looking forward.
Paul didn’t just think: “I’m sure I’ll be out of this jam soon. Chin up!” That works for awhile, until a soldier jingling some keys snapped him back to the reality of his situation.
To be fair, there is something to be said for positive thinking in the future. It’s good to have goals. “I plan on having my own house. I plan on having my debts paid.” Good things.
But if that’s our source of contentment, what happens when we never get there? At some point you feel worse off than you are now!
And if you do get there, don’t be surprised to find the “perceived needs” to kick in. “Actually, I need a bigger house.” “Actually, I want to be out of debt and rolling in money.”
The secret to contentment is not looking forward either.
Listen to what Paul says, “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.”
In other words, Paul found contentment from looking up.
Because what do you find when you look up? The God who provides all things. He takes care of our earthly needs. He takes care of our earthly wants. He has an endless supply of food, drink, clothing, and shelther.
Beyond that, he gives us what no one else can: forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and the promise of spending eternity with him in the glorious riches of heaven!
When your focus is upwards, it doesn’t matter where you are int his life. Whether whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want…in any and every situation, you are content.
Content to be forgiven.
Content to be God’s child.
Content to be in God’s good graces.
So, how will your Thanksgiving weekend play out? I suppose it depends on the circumstances.
As look up, you will be reminded of your circumstances: Jesus loves you. You have a Savior. You are blessed.
Circumstantially, you couldn’t be in a better place.
I've noticed that oftentimes it depends on the the time of the day. It In the morning, we think we need to spend time on making Pop Tarts, watering plants, and catching the morning Traffic alerts. At night, we think we need to spend time Keeping up with the Kardashians, Facebook stalking long lost friends, and applying fifteen different kinds of facial washes before we go to sleep.
But are all the things that we 'think we need to do' really things that we need to spend time on?
Think back to Social Studies class back in first grade. There's one major lesson that Social Studies teaches. (Besides that Social Studies is way easier than Math and Spelling.) There is a difference between Needs and Wants.
Needs are things that you need in order to live on this earth. Wants are things you could live without.
When we apply that principle to how we spend time, what are the things that we NEED to spend time on?
For starters, we need to spend time taking care of our basic human needs: Food, clothing, shelter, and sleep. After a long exercise we need to spend time drinking some water. A few times a day, we need to eat meals. We need to sleep. We need to spend time putting on clothing. (Although, how much time we need to spend deciding on which outfit to wear is debatable...)
Then, in order to have these basics needs met, it's true that we need to spend time making money, don't we? This is why we spend time working. 40 hours a week. 50 hours a week. Maybe more. If it is a career job, then we are going to need to spend even more time working than that!
And you might say that we need to spend time on maintenance tasks. By that I mean tasks that directly affect those first two needs. We need to go to the grocery store in order to buy food. We need to install a new kitchen faucet, because the old one spurts out water which we need to drink. We need to spend time fixing a flat tire on the car to make it to work in the morning.
And one of the ways that we perform maintenance, is really something that deserves a category of it's own: Relaxing. We need to spend time relaxing in order to rejuvenate for working for money for basics needs. This logic might explain why we watch old reruns of Saved by the Bell; why we go relaxing at the beach; why we nestle up to a good book. Although, at times this logic can become cyclical: “I need to spend time drinking this Samuel Adams so that I can take a break, relax my mind, and get ready for working hard to make money to buy food to eat and things to drink." (like Samuel Adams.)
Brothers and sisters, I'm not here to argue . Certainly, we need to spend time doing these things in order to live on this earth.
Why then does Jesus say what he says to Martha? Listen again: “One thing is necessary...what Mary has chosen.” Listening to my Word.
Doesn't that seem to fly in the face of everything we just talked about?
Perhaps we need to go back to Social Studies. The social studies book talks about what is necessary for earthly life. Earthly life that lasts 60-70 years if we have the strength. But what the average Social Studies book from Houghton Mifflin forgets to mention is that all of these 'earthly needs” will be of no value in the next life! In fact, when it comes to getting into the next life, none of these things are necessary.
Not at all.
Spending time eating a Subway sandwich will not stop your soul from starving for the forgiveness found only in Jesus. Getting some sleep will not cause your mind to rest from the guilt of yesterday's sins. If you spent 60, 70, 80 hours a week at work trying to make money, even if you had a second job, you would not be able to buy yourself anything that lasts to eternity! Fixing the flat tire may get you to work, but it won't get you to heaven. The weekend at the boathouse may reenergize you physically for the week of work, but it won't reenergize your spirit with the message of sins forgiven, heaven won, and Jesus on your side for the rest of the week!!!
Brothers and sisters, Jesus speaks the truth. Spiritually speaking—eternally speaking---actually speaking, the only thing that we need to spend time doing is learning God's Word.
Think about why that's true.
According to Luke 10:38-42
In a children’s theater play that I saw once, there was a character called Time. Time was an actress dressed in black with a big clock necklace hanging from her neck. Time was a minor character, but made appearances on the stage every so often.
One time she came running across the stage as the narrator read, “Time is running by.” Another time she had wings on. As she flapped across the stage, the narrator read, “Time flew by.” Time even came onto the stage eating a banana, of which she took the peel and tossed it in front of her, only to be “slipping away.”
One thing she never did though was stop.
I bet that’s one thing you wish could happen. Time could stop! As busy people, that would be a pretty neat advantage! Then, we’d be able to get everything done in the day that we’d want to. Or we could stop time, watch an entire season of Survivor, and then go back to work refreshed!
The fact is that time doesn’t stop. It always keeps moving. It moves while we’re sleeping, while we’re working, while we’re playing, while we’re on Facebook! Time keeps moving.
Since it doesn’t stop, it is important to think about how best to spend our time!
In the lesson for today, Jesus teaches us how he would have us spend our time. Take a look at Luke 10:38-42. “38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.”
Back in my bachelor days, I didn't think that preparing dinner for a few guests took all that much preparation. I'd grab a bag of double cheeseburgers from McDonalds, rent a redbox, and wipe the crumbs off the couch. A grand total of 10 minutes, tops!
Then I got married.
Turns out, having guests over for dinner does take a lot more preparation time. We spend time cooking the meals ourselves. Which is, maybe, an hour process. First, we we spend time researching the right recipe in the recipe books. Then we spend time determining if we have the right food for the meal. Then, we spend time shopping. Then, we notice that the cupboards have a smudge on them so we need to clean the kitchen. And while we have the cleaning supplies out, we need to quickly clean the house. And not just the living room and kitchen area. We have to clean behind the closed doors, because “What if they want a tour of our two bedroom apartment's master bedroom?”
The point: Preparing a nice meal for a friend takes time. That is what Martha wanted to do! It's not so wrong. She wanted to prepare a nice meal for her friend! For Jesus, her Savior! Maybe, she was aware that he had no place to lay his head. (A theme from last week.) Maybe, she knew that he was tirelessly at work in his commitment of sharing God's Word. From other parts of Scriptures, we see that she understood that she owed everything to Him and perhaps she had hoped to give thanks to him by giving him the best five star restaurant treatment that she could.
But in order to do that, she was going to need, some help. An all-hands-on-deck type moment.
Fortunately for her, Martha had a sister. A sister called Mary. A sister, who, according to verse 39, sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.
40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.
You can almost feel the tension rising.
Perhaps Martha tried to make her sister aware that she needed help. Maybe, she walked by mixing batter in a bowl really loudly. Then, maybe she tried sighing really loudly from a distance. Maybe, she even dropped a bunch of pots and pans to mimic the frustration of a busy restaurant on a Friday night.
Finally, she makes her way into the living area. She waits for a chance and asks, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Could you tell her to help me!”
And certainly, in our hard working, go get 'em, busy all the time, always stuff to do, American attitude, Jesus' answer is flooring. “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Is that how you expected Jesus to react? Let's rethink what happened.
Martha thought that she needed to spend her time doing all kinds of things. Cleaning, cooking, flower arranging, floor sweeing, table setting, Parcheesi preparring, general busy being in order to show Jesus a good meal of thanksgiving.
But Mary thought that something completely different needed to be done at that time, with the Lord of Heaven and earth at their house, She thought it was needed to spend time: Listening to what Jesus had to say.
When Martha questions Mary's choice, Jesus agrees with what Mary has chosen...but he goes farther than that. Look at what he says: Only one thing is needed. What Mary chose! Listening to my Word.
What about you? What do you think you need to spend time doing?
The first reason: God's Word deals with eternity. It is the only earthly task that does just that! It tells us that we are poor miserable sinners, confused and perplexed by how to spend time on this earth. With misplaced priorities, we spend time on anything but God's Word. In fact, we spend time living in rebellion to God's Word and this will result in an endless amount of time in the fiery lake in hell!
But God's Word also tells us how Jesus spent his time. How Jesus spent his time immersed in God's Word, perfectly following God's Word, in fact Jesus was God's Word! He spent time being kind, gentle, loving, and all of the things that were mentioned in Colossians.
Then, he spent time in an unfair courtroom. He spent time before a crowd of people shouting for his blood. He spent time hanging from a cross. He spent the last moments of his life's time on earth innocently!
There was never time better spent! Because Jesus spent this time dying on a cross for you! He spent time, three days in a grave, for you! He then spent 40 more days time appearing and reappearing to his disciples. Proof that time he spent suffering God's wrath for your sins of misplaced time management was accepted!
In other words, through faith in Jesus, brothers and sisters, you will not spend an eternal time in hell. You won't even spend any time there. You will spend all of our second life—alive! A life that does not end. A life where time stops! Where time ceases to exist! It is certain. Through faith in Jesus, you will spend your next life in the glorious gates of redemption. With the Lord!
Brothers and sisters, this is what we learn as we spend time studying God's Word!
The second reason time spent studying God's Word is necessary is because it strengthens our faith!
If you don't spend time eating breakfast you won't have as much strength to get through the day. It's a fact. You won't be able to concentrate as much. You'll be more tired out. You may not get as much work done as you want! It's why Tony the Tiger and the Trix Rabbit encourage us to eat breakfast!
The same is true with God's Word. If we don't spend time in it, how can we ever expect to get through this life with faith? To be truthful, you won't! Jesus said it this way, “If you think you are standing firm, be careful lest you fall!”
Instead, Jesus encourages us in today's lesson to cherish time in God's Word. To treat his Word like a well balanced breakfast. To treat it as food. To feed our souls so that we don't grow weaker, lose strength and fade away to spiritual death!
God's Word has more to offer than vitamins and minerals. God's Word contains the Holy Spirit! All powerful. God himself!
But isn't it important to do God's work as well? To go and share his love?
There are few plants outside our house. For a while, earlier this week, they weren't doing very well. I finally paid attention and spent some time watering them.
Guess what? Now they are blooming. Brilliant pinks, royal purples, and dazzling whites. They just needed to be fed in order to bloom.
It's the same things with us. We need to be fed God's Word in order to bloom with our actions. We need to read God's Word to know what those good deeds are that please God. We need to be in God's Word where the Holy Spirit dwells who gives us the strength and faith necessary to do these good deeds in a world full of hatred!
Brothers and sisters, there is nothing else necessary for us than to spend time in God's Word.
But let me warn you. Very soon, if not already, the devil, the world, and your sinful flesh are going to work hard to convince you that there are a host of things that are more important to spend time on than listening to God's Word!
Ignore them. They only spend time convincing you that time in God’s Word isn’t important at all, because it is the most important thing of all!
Brothers and sisters, spend time in God’s Word. Embrace the cross of time. Set aside time to be in your Bible. Set aside time to study it with other Christians. Remember how important it is and keep that in mind when you make your decisions on how to spend your time!
Blessings as you spend time in God’s Word this week.