ACTS, All Powerful, Atheism, Attitude, Authority, Believe, Christian Living, Church, Comfort, Education, Faith, False Teachings, Impossible, North Raleigh, Raleigh, Repentance, Seriousness, Sin, True Heart, Urgency
Today we are continuing our walk through the second missionary journey of the Apostle Paul. Before we study God’s Words, 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. About Athens
Last we left Paul, he had been in Thessalonica sharing the Gospel and he was run out of the city by a mob of people that had a volatile reaction to the message of Jesus. From there he went to Berea, where the people were of noble character and examined the Scriptures to see if what Paul said was true. (Acts 17:1-11)
But after Paul was in Berea for a while, Acts 17:13 says: When the Jews in Thessalonica learned that Paul was preaching the Word of God at Berea, they went there too, agitating the crowds and stirring them up. They found out where Paul would be preaching. They marched around shouting “Down with Paul.” They held signs that had a picture of Paul’s face with a mustache drawn on it.
In response, the mission team split up. Since the believers and church in Berea were still young in faith, Silas, Timothy, and Luke stayed behind to teach them, meanwhile, Paul, the main guy the crowds were protesting, went to the next city by himself. The next city was called Athens.
A bit about Athens:
Athens had been a key city state in that Greek empire. It was a place for thinkers and movers. It was the birthplace of democracy. It was the home of Plato, Aristotle and many other philosophers. It had been important to Alexander the Great and it was still important under the Roman empire. It was artsy. It was academic. It was scholarly.
It was filled with idols.
While Paul was waiting…in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. (v.16)
Idols in the temples.
Idols on the street corners.
Idols at work.
Idols at home.
Idols at lunch.
Idols at breakfast.
Idols at dinner.
Idols at the local restaurant.
Idols at the museum.
Idols at the sports arena, the fishing harbor and the laundromat.
It almost sounds like Dr. Seuss:
Idols, idols in a box.
Idols, idols with a fox.
Idols, idols here and there.
Idols, idols everywhere!
For Paul, this was strange. Athens was supposed to be a place of wisdom. Yet, here were all these wise people bowing down to worship tiny, stone statues.
So, Paul spoke: He reasoned in the synagogue and in the marketplace. (v.17) He told them about Jesus. He told them about the Savior.
While Paul was there two different groups of people heard him speak:
One group was Epicurean. The Epicureans followed the philosophy of Epicurus who lived from 341-270 B.C. His philosophy was that there was no afterlife. The gods existed but didn’t really care what humans did. They were too busy with the own affairs to care. Their slogan: “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die!”
The other group was Stoic. The Stoics followed the philosophy of Zero who lived from 340-265 B.C. He had the perspective that you had to do more than waste your life away. The gods put people here for a reason and that reason was to work. It was the highest form of pleasure to work (and to do so every day). Their slogan was a bit different: “Eat, Drink, and do work, for tomorrow…we do more work.”
These two philosophies were common opponents.
It was blue-collar worker versus free thinking hippie.
It was the constant busyness of Wall Street versus the laid-back jazz of Bourbon Street.
It was “Whatever man” versus “Get to work, man.”
They were common opponents.
But when Paul came to town, these common opponents had a common enemy:
What do you mean there’s more to life than pleasure?
What do you mean there’s more to life than work?
They asked: “What is this babbler trying to say?”…And they took Paul to the Areopagus. (v.19)
The Areopagus was the place for new ideas. It was named after the god of war: “Ares.” His name literally meant: “Hill of the war god.” It was an appropriate name for the place where people would go to battle for their new ideas against some of the brightest minds of the ancient world.
That is the reason that they brought Paul to the Areopagus.
They wanted him to battle for his new idea.
They wanted him to go to war for Jesus.
And Paul did.
II. About the Unknown God
Paul began his sermon:
Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. (v.22)
You have gods for everything.
A god of the sun.
A god for the moon.
A god for the sea; a god for the land.
A god for love; a god for war.
You even have a god for beer!
In fact, as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I…found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. (v.23)
You covered your bases.
Just in case you missed some god, you made him an altar.
Here’s the thing:
What you worship as unknown…
…I am going to proclaim to you… (v.23)
For starters, the Unknown God is not in HUMAN BUILT DWELLINGS.
He doesn’t reside in some epic stone arena.
He doesn’t kick up his feet in some tiny, jewel studded mausoleum.
You won’t find him down on 71st and Elm at a corner apartment with a jacuzzi and a view of the city.
He isn’t like Athena. The goddess for whom you built your city and for whom you built that gigantic Parthenon.
With its impressive columns.
And marble grandeur.
The Unknown God?
He doesn’t need that.
The Unknown God…
He made the world and everything in it does not live in temples built by hands. (v.24)
And he isn’t IN NEED OF SERVICE.
I’ve seen how ya’ll run about.
If things don’t go well for you. Maybe you lost your job.
Here’s what you do:
You go to the marketplace, buy a couple of apples, you run to the temple of Athena and place them on a silver bowl.
Maybe you lost your job because Athena was hungry.
The Unknown God isn’t like that.
He is not some pet that you need to feed.
He doesn’t need to be taken for a walk.
He doesn’t need you to scratch him behind the ears so that he’ll be pleased with you.
The Unknown God is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all people life and breath and everything else. (v.25)
He’s all powerful.
But he isn’t ALOOF.
He’s not like Zeus, King of the gods. He isn’t up on Mount Olympus having a banquet with fine wines and beautiful goddesses, throwing grapes down his throat and afterwards gathering with Ares and Poseidon for a couple of rounds of Wii Bowling.
He doesn’t say: “Eat, drink…I don’t care if you’re passed out in a ditch tomorrow morning.”
Nor does he say: “Work; work…I don’t care if you’re stressed out all week long.”
The Unknown God is not aloof.
Because listen to this:
He made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. (v.26)
Did you hear that?
He made you.
He cared about you.
He placed you here.
He placed you now.
He determined your steps to take you to this exact moment.
Because he is not WANTING TO REMAIN UNKNOWN.
That’s why he did this.
That’s why you’re all gathered here in the Areopagus.
God brought you here.
God brought you now.
That you might seek him and perhaps reach out to him and find him, though he is not far from each of us. (v.27)
Finding God is what you want, isn’t it?
You’re here to find God.
It’s why you discuss the latest ideas.
It’s why you reason out the latest thoughts.
It’s why you talk about the latest meditations and popular trends for fasting.
It’s why you have been doing this day after day after day…
All in hopes that you will find God.
That desire to find God? It comes from God.
That mind for finding God? It comes from God.
Do you know what else comes from God?
And pay attention.
Because this message is important.
The Unknown God is NOT PATIENT FOREVER.
For a long time, God has been.
Think about it:
You’ve been worshiping rocks.
You’ve been bowing down to stone.
You’ve been shouting the praises of pieces of paper covered in glitter.
All the while the Lord is the one who created you, made you, sustains you, and nourishes you.
You’re giving thanks to a pet rock?
God has been patient.
He’s hasn’t struck you down yet.
In the past, God has overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. (v.30-31a)
You won’t be judged by some stone.
You won’t be judged by some rock.
You won’t be judged by some imperfect Mount Olympian with questionable morals who’s in a romantic relationship with some half-man, half-horse.
You will be judged by the Universe Creating, Almighty, Eternal, invested in your life, knowing everything about your life, God himself.
He will judge you.
All your sins.
God will judge you.
And he’s got Holy Fire in his eyes.
How do you think you’ll be judged if you’ve been worshiping rocks?
And you want proof?
This is not UNPROVEN.
Because that man that will judge the world for God?
He’s his Son.
He’s a guy named Jesus.
And God has given proof that Jesus will judge.
What kind of proof?
He did the one thing that Zeus couldn’t do.
He did the one thing that Aphrodite couldn’t do.
He did the one thing that your dear Athena couldn’t do.
He did the one thing that you and all your wisdom could never figure out how to do.
He raised Jesus from the dead. (v.31b)
III. WHAT NOW?
And it was right about that time, that the people stopped Paul from speaking. They said, “We’ll have to see more about this some other time.”
They let him go.
They didn’t throw him in prison.
They “tolerated” his message.
But…they didn’t believe it.
Don’t just tolerate the message of Jesus.
(1) Stop Searching
The other day I was down near the capitol building and I hear some music. On the north side near the street was a group of people. They were dressed in full religious garb. They had on jewels and bangles. They were playing tambourines and acoustic guitars. And as they were dancing, they were chanting a phrase: “Hare Krishna.”
Have you heard of it?
It’s a stranger type of religion made popular by John Lennon. The tenet is that the best way to connect with God is through music. Specifically – through playing the music to and chanting the words “Hare Krishna.” Through singing and chanting, you become centered in God. You become one with God. You find God…. (And the Beatles make some money as you buy their album).
Whether it’s musical chant.
Doing good work after good work after good work.
People are in search of God.
And maybe you are, too.
But you know what?
You can stop searching.
God’s right here.
God is Jesus.
That’s one of the reasons the resurrection happened!
It’s like one of those nighttime cyclists who is wearing neon green with flashing lights on his vest. He’s bright. He’s colored. He’s put his outfit together in such a way so that you don’t miss him!
The resurrection is like that.
It’s the Unknown God’s way of saying to you:
Here I am!
Don’t miss me.
I have made myself known.
I am Jesus.
I am your Savior.
I am your Redeemer.
And my message is this:
Repent means “to turn.”
To turn from sin.
To turn to God.
Whether you are a first-time hearer of this message or a long-time listener.
We are sinners who need to hear this message from God.
Turn from that sin.
You know the one I’m talking about.
Turn from that sin.
God knows the one I’m talking about.
Turn from that sin.
God isn’t stone who couldn’t possibly know…
Turn from that sin.
God is the Unknown God who knows you so deeply.
Turn from sin.
And turn to God to be saved.
Because when you turn to the Unknown God…
When you turn to Jesus…
Something else becomes unknown…
God, who KNOWS all of your sins, says your sins are now UNKNOWN, because he KNEW the cross and you KNOW his resurrection from the grave that the God who was formerly UNKNOWN is now KNOWN by you and who says:
I KNOW you.
In the early 1990s, there was a SURE deodorant commercial that would start with a man at a sporting event next to a beautiful woman. His arms would be raised in excitement. He smiles at her. She looked impressed. Meanwhile in the background, a low-key beat accompanied a voice which sang: “Sure. Sure. Sure.” Then, the camera would pan past the woman to another guy – also looking to court the woman – raising his arms, but quickly catching a whiff of his underarms and immediately lowering them into a not-as-excited, half-touchdown pose…while the musical refrain changed from a deep “Sure. Sure. Sure.” to a wimpier sounding, “Unsure. Unsure. Unsure.”
The trend would continue for the duration of the 30 second ad.
From the classroom. (Sure hands raised; unsure hands not so much).
To adjusting the overhead light on an airplane (The person who’s sure is able to; the unsure person…just deals with it).
To (my personal favorite) the weather woman who is SURE and certain of a snowy forecast and the weather man who is as UNSURE about his pit stains as he is about the precipitation index.
The point? Using SURE deodorant will keep you SURE that you are STAYING FRESH.
Over the last weeks we have learned a lot about being FRESH in 2019. We talked about getting a FRESH start, out FRESH identity, the personalized FRESHness of baptism, how to have reFRESHing friendships, how to have FRESH speech, what our FRESH purpose is and how to be a part of that purpose and be a breath of FRESH air for the North Raleigh community. Today’s goal is to learn how to be sure that we’re staying FRESH for God’s purposes throughout the entire year. Before we do that, a prayer: Lord, strengthen us by the truth, your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see, our ears to hear what you want us to hear and our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. Feeling Tired…?
The section from God’s Word that we’re going to focus in on today is an Old Testament Lesson from the book of Isaiah. Isaiah was a guy who lived around 740-700 B.C. He served as a prophet. That is – he spoke messages from God that God told him to speak. Usually it was through visions or dreams that God would give him these messages.
The main message of Isaiah had to do with the Assyrian army. For years, God had warned the people of Israel to stop sinning, to stop worshipping false Gods, to worship the True God, to stop abandoning Him and return to Him.
But the people didn’t listen. While Isaiah was still prophesying, God allowed the Assyrian army, a terrible, violent army, to ransack the countryside of Israel. They went along destroying villages, burning houses, and killing any stragglers, destroying everything in the North Kingdom of Israel, from there the army made its way south to the Southern Kingdom of Judah, eventually culminating in a siege of Jerusalem, the capital city.
Have you ever been under siege? The closet I can think is whenever it snows around here. The city shuts down. The streets shutdown. If you live on any kind of side road, the snow plows don’t come, and you are under siege. You can’t go outside. You can’t go to the store. You can’t grab a coffee at Starbucks…you have to (gasp)…make your own coffee!
But it was much worse for the people of Jerusalem.
They couldn’t get outside to the well waters, so they had to ration water that was located in their storage areas. Many were dehydrated.
They couldn’t get any food from the farms, so they had to ration the flour for making bread – maybe one slice once a day. They were lacking nutrients.
They needed to be on constant alert – watching from the watchtowers at the top of the wall – to ensure that the Assyrians weren’t making an attempt at scaling the wall and climbing in. And when they weren’t in charge of visually watching them, they were in the city trembling and worrying that any day the siege could break!
Israel was tired of being under siege.
Because being under siege is exhausting.
But…maybe you already know that.
Maybe you are under siege by bill collectors.
Or under siege by a pile of work.
Or under siege to the demands of raising a child.
Or under siege in a relationship that seems filled with anger and resentment.
Or under siege to depression and anxiety.
That’s not fun.
I’m sorry you’re dealing with that.
When you are under siege – it is easy to blame God.
That’s exactly what the Israelites did, they said: “My way is hidden from the LORD; my cause is disregarded by my God!” (Isaiah 40:27)
Think about that. Their claim was that God couldn’t see them.
As if there was some type of obstruction in God’s sight - and that’s why he can’t see what’s going with me.
Or maybe God can see, but just doesn’t care! Like an old sticky note that He’s tired of looking at – God just crumples up my needs and disregards them into the waste basket.
But Israel wasn’t under siege because God didn’t care about them.
In fact, he had sent Isaiah and about 20 something prophets before Isaiah to delivers constant warnings to the people so that this besiegement would NEVER take place.
The issue wasn’t that God grew tired of caring about Israel.
It was that Israel grew tired of caring about God.
Truth: Spiritual tiredness exists when we tire of caring about God.
When we remove ourselves from his promises of grace…
When we remove ourselves from his love…
When we remove ourselves from doing the things that God says, “Won’t cause you grief and pain and stress!”
We will get spiritually tired.
It’s the most oddball thing. But I’ve seen it again and again…
A terrible thing happens.
Someone is struggling spiritually.
So, what do they do?
They remove themselves from God.
They remove themselves from their only source of strength.
If that’s you, today God says, “Repent.”
He says, “Return to me.”
He says, “Return to me because…”
I. Never. Tire.
II. The One who NEVER Tires
Check out what Isaiah writes next, he says, “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary and his understanding no one can fathom.” (v.28)
I love that beginning.
Don’t you know? Haven’t you heard?
Do I need to teach you a fundament thing about God?
The fundamental thing is that God NEVER gets tired.
And Isaiah gives us three reasons this is true:
1) God is Everlasting
Not to be stuck in 80’s commercials, but do you remember the Energizer bunny rabbit. He was a pink rabbit that had on a cool pair of shades as he drummed across cities, forests, deserts and Antarctic wastelands. The point? The energizer bunny keeps going and going and going and going and going and going and going and…You get the point.
But I remember one time I bought that Energizer battery and I was playing on my Gameboy. And guess what? That battery died!
It stopped going and going and going…
God isn’t like that.
God is everlasting and unending.
He doesn’t get sleepy.
He doesn’t get lethargic.
He doesn’t need to catch his breath.
God has been around from before the beginning of the world.
He will be around after the end of the world.
God is everlasting.
2) God is All-Powerful
Isaiah says, “The LORD…is the Creator of the ends of the earth.” (v.28)
Creating things usually takes energy. For me, I know that if I’m creating something, I get pretty tired. At the end of a long day of creating a birdhouse for our backyard – or even half the bird house – I get tired and want to quit.
He created lofty mountain ranges
He fashioned tens of thousands of tree types.
He crafted this gigantic, burning ball of gas known as the sun.
And then, when he was done creating, he immediately shifted to the work of sustaining the very universe that he just created:
Sending rain on the earth to water the new plants.
Holding earth in its rotation around the sun.
Revolving all the other the planets across our galaxy.
And all of universe sustaining? It’s like lifting up a cotton swab to God.
It’s not tiring.
Because God is all powerful.
That’s important to remember, because sometimes the most tiring kind of tired isn’t a physical kind of tired at all.
It’s a mental kind.
Spending mental energy to figure out the next step in fixing this relationship.
Contemplating the next step in trying to raise a kid.
Stressing over how to fix issues at work.
Mental exhaustion is a real thing for humans. But not for God.
Isaiah writes, “God will not grow tired or weary and his understanding no one can fathom.” (v.28c)
God knows all things.
He knows how to fix whatever issue you’re having.
He knows how to fix the issues that you don’t know you’re having.
He knows how to fix the issues that eventually one day you’ll be having.
He knows how to fix all of your issues.
And all of my issues.
And all of the issues of every person sitting here today.
And it does not stress Him out.
He doesn’t tire, because He’s all-knowing.
These three truths – everlasting, all-powerful and all-knowing are proof that nothing can tire God out.
But…maybe you need one more example?
Do you remember what happened to Jesus near the end of his time at earth?
He dealt with immense physical suffering: arrested, beaten, bruised, bloodied, and nailed hand and foot to a cross!
He dealt with intense emotional suffering, convicted by his own people, betrayed by one disciple, denied by another, abandoned by the rest.
And that was nothing compared to the massive spiritual suffering: of the world’s guilt, shame and sin.
Eventually, his body gave out.
Don’t think that God stopped working.
Because, while his body died, God, as God, was holding the entire world together.
And God, as human, was simply biding his time.
Three days later…
Jesus came back to life!
If death can’t stop Jesus, nothing will.
He’s not too tired to care for you.
He’s not too tired to keep you safe.
He’s not too tired to protect your family.
He’s not too tired to rebuild your relationship
He’s not too tired to strengthen your faith.
He’s not too tired to guide your kids.
He’s not too tired to defeat addiction.
He’s not too tired to remove guilt.
He’s not too tired to defeat death.
God doesn’t get tired.
III. The Source of your reFRESHment
And God doesn’t keep his strength to himself. Look at his promise in verse 29. “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.”
Notice it doesn’t say that he makes us earn this gift of strength by doing some kind of spiritual heavy lifting.
Or gives until he can’t give anymore.
And gives some more.
This is different from the way it works with humans.
Because even the best of humans gets tired.
Even the best of humans runs out of energy.
Even the best of humans has to stop giving of themselves.
It’s like a 2 Liter Bottle of Coca-Cola. If I walk around and pour people a glass of Coca-Cola and all day long I pour people a glass of Coca-Cola with my 2 liter bottle, but I never stop to refill my bottle of Coca-Cola…eventually I run out.
But God’s different.
He’s got more than 2 liters of strength and grace and mercy.
He’s got a gushing water fall’s amount.
A never ending, ever flowing fountain of power, grace and mercy.
That’s really important.
Because take a look at something Jesus said: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
Do you hear him?
Do you hear your Savior’s voice?
He’s calling. And he says:
“Take a break from ‘worrying that you won’t be able to do it.’”
“Because I got this.”
“Take a break from the anxiety of ‘I don’t have enough.’”
“Take a break from ‘the stress of guilt, sin, and shame.’”
“You are forgiven.”
IV. What Now?
1. Practice a Spiritual Sabbath
Do you know about the Sabbath?
In the Old Testament, God commanded the Israelites to keep something called “the Sabbath.” In fact, that’s the third commandment: “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.” What happened on that Sabbath day was that the Israelites rested. They didn’t go to work. They didn’t do a business trip. They stayed at home and rested.
Over time, the religious leaders developed some rules to ensure that people were really resting.
It was illegal to do work at work.
It was illegal to do work at home.
You couldn’t turn off the lamp because that would be work.
You couldn’t sweep up that piles of dirt, because that would be work.
In fact, you were only allowed to take a couple thousand steps before stepping would be work, too.
All these laws meant to bring rest led the whole Sabbath experience not being very restful.
I just husked the corn for supper…was that work?
Don’t tell the rabbi. I think I went over by about 76 steps.
I’m sorry God! On this day of rest, I lifted the salt shaker and have added more sin to my spirit!
When Jesus came along, he corrected the people.
He said that people weren’t made to keep the Sabbath, but the Sabbath was made for people.
The Sabbath was to be a spiritual rest.
A time for them to take a break from the stress of everyday life and focus in on God.
To hear his voice.
To be uplifted by his promises.
To find rest in God.
Friends, do the same.
That’s what we’re doing here today. We are here to take a break from the everyday and focus in on God.
But don’t let that be it.
Take a 5-minute Sabbath in the morning before you begin your day by listening to your Bible app.
Take a 5-minute Sabbath at noon as you read a devotion.
Take a 5-minute Sabbath at night as you say your prayers.
Spend time each week – each day with God. When you do so, he will renew your spiritual strength.
2. Practice a Physical Sabbath
Because even though the main point of the Sabbath wasn’t physical rest, it was an ancillary benefit.
The Bible is clear – physical rest is important.
Jesus, as a human, took rest breaks.
We probably don’t need anymore proof than that.
In fact, being physically well-rested helps you spiritually.
You don’t feel as much like being a jerk.
You don’t feel too tired to care for others.
You don’t feel too sleepy to say nice things to your coworkers in the morning.
As a result, you don’t have to deal with as much guilt and shame that zaps you of spiritual strength.
Here’s the point: Physical rest is a good thing.
And even though we live in a ‘go, go, go’ culture – today, God gives us encouragement to slow down.
Have you ever seen an eagle in flight? Compared to most birds, they are pretty majestic. Cause most birds, take a sparrow, flap their wings like crazy. They flap and flap and flap and use up all kinds of energy just to keep themselves up.
The eagle? Not so much.
He opens up his majestic wings, he pushes off of whatever ledge he is sitting on…and he soars.
He trusts the wind to hold himself up and as a result, he soars.
Isaiah writes this, “Those who hope in the Lord will soar on wings like eagles.” (v.31)
Too often we hope in ourselves.
And we’re like a tiny sparrow – flapping and flopping and panicking and trying to keep ourselves up.
Instead, our encouragement today is to be an eagle. To open our wings. To trust God. To soar.
God will keep you up. He doesn’t tire.
Friends, may God keep us refreshed and enable you to soar! Amen.
Today we are continuing our series called The Kingdom of God is Like. It’s a series all about parables. Parables are short earthly stories that teaching about the eternal kingdom of God. So far, we have heard that the kingdom of God is like buried treasure—which, to be fair, seems like a very flattering comparison.
Treasure is valuable
Treasure is beautiful.
Treasure is worth selling anything and everything to make yours.
Treasure seems like a great comparison for God’s kingdom.
We compare God’s kingdom to a fishing net.
Fishing nets are stinky.
Fishing nets are smelly.
Fishing nets come with those some of those little algae goobers encrusted on around the edge.
It’s not as flattering of a comparison.
Why is God’s kingdom like a fishing net? Before we look at this strange comparison which teaches us some very important truths about God’s kingdom, 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. 1st Century Fishing
Jesus’ parable is from the parable-filled Matthew 13. It comes right after the parable of the treasure and stands in stark contrast to it. Remember – each parable emphasizes a different aspect of the Kingdom of God. The parable of the Treasure reveals the value of God’s kingdom; the parable of the net reveals methodology.
Look at what the parable says:
Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. (v.47-48)
Anybody here go fishing? Nowadays fishing consists of packing up a rod and reel, stopping by the local bait shop, picking out a nice, big juicy earthworm (or maybe a wriggly, black leech), then heading out to the local pond, casting, stopping to untangle the line from the tree branch behind you, casting again, watching as your line drifts into the middle of the lake…and then…
And waiting some more.
Eventually some fish grabs the hook, line and sinker.
You pull him in and…
If he’s an acceptable length and weight – you keep him.
If not …plop!
If it’s a delicious looking salmon, in the basket.
If it’s a creepy looking dogfish, not so much.
Back at Jesus’ time, the fishing is a bit different. Fishermen would drag their nets to the shore and paddle to the middle of the lake. Then, they’d toss a weighted net overboard. Then, slowly they’d move along with the waves, while their net dragged against the bottom collecting any and every fish that happened to get in the way of the net. When they’re done fishing, they pull up the ropes, cinch the corners and pull the net up.
But here’s the thing:
Can you tell which fish are bad?
Can you tell which fish are good?
Can you tell which fish are future 5-star restaurant menu items?
And which fish belong on some Discovery Channel documentary on deep sea monsters?
No. It’s too much of a jumbled-up mess!
So…what do the fishermen do?
They take the net back to the shore.
They open the net and begin separating:
Too much like Uncle Joe…
Fishing at Jesus’ time required a lot of sorting. But…
The fish cannot be sorted from the good from the bad while they are in the net; rather they are sorted when the fishing is finished.
II. A Priceless Treasure
But remember – this is a parable.
Parables are short earthly stories that teach about the kingdom of God.
Things are about to get real.
Real and a bit uncomfortable.
Look at the meaning of the parable:
This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (v.49-50)
At first glance, this might seem to be another parable.
The parable of the furnace…
But – let’s be clear: The second half of the parable the part about the blazing furnace and the angels, that’s not the illustration part.
It’s the explanation.
It’s not an illustration, but the reality.
In fact, this parable is all about realities.
Realities that are quite uncomfortable.
(1) Hypocrisy is Real
Because… that dragging net represents the kingdom of God at work. And there is no greater representation of the kingdom of God at work than visible local churches.
In a church, God’s Word is proclaimed.
In a church, people are baptized.
In a church, people celebrate the Lord’s Supper.
In a church, people pool resources to go and plant the Message of Jesus in the Hearts of North Raleigh.
In a church, God’s kingdom is at work.
And when God’s kingdom is at work, it’s like a big old net that collects people of all type and varieties.
Big and small.
Young and old.
Black and white.
Tarheel fans, Wolfpack fans and Duke fans.
But most importantly to this parable…
People that are a part of God’s kingdom.
And people that only look like it.
NOW STOP! Immediately. Because what some of you are about to do is quietly, sheepishly raise your finger and slyly point at someone else here. “Pastor, I think it’s him…”
NOPE. That’s not the point.
In fact, the point is the exact opposite. Because remember – while the net is in use – that is, while the people of God are using God’s Word – it’s impossible to see which are true believers and which are hypocrites.
It’s kinda like trying to identify which fish are good and which fish are bad when they’re still in the net.
You won’t be able to tell who’s a hypocrite and who isn’t in a church simply by looking at them.
You won’t be able to tell most hypocrites simply by looking at them.
But there is one person in the church…
That you should be able to identify as good or bad.
You know you.
You know your heart.
You know if your heart is following Jesus or if this is all just some big show.
Something you do because your parents told you to do.
Something you do so pastor will get off your back.
When it comes to facing the reality of hypocrisy, it doesn’t start by looking into the world…
Or looking into another Christian church…
Or looking at other people in this church…
It starts by looking in your heart.
(2) The End is Real
The second reality has less to do with now and more to do with later.
Take a look at Jesus’ words – This is how it will be at the end of the age. (v.49) He then goes on to describe angels, divine, holy messengers of God – no longer invisible – fully and completely perceptible - picking people up like fish and separating them.
If you are a hypocrite, you need to pay very close attention to this section.
Because, truth is, you might be able to fool other Christians.
You might be able to fool them with a fish sticker on the back of your car and “Christian” listed on your Facebook profile’s religious preference.
You might be able to fool others at church.
You might be able to fool me.
You can’t fool God.
And at the end, you will be separated.
And placed wherever it is you belong.
And can I say something obvious? There’s one place that you don’t want to be your final destiny.
(3) Hell is Real
Look at the description of where the bad fish go:
“The blazing furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (v.50)
Notice. The verbs are present tense.
Notice. The verbs are continuous.
That’s because this is eternal.
Stop – real quick – because the devil is doing everything possible right now to make you say:
“Pastor has gone off the deep end. Pastor is talking all mean like. Pastor is saying thing I wish he wouldn’t.”
I am because I love you.
And I don’t want you to go to this very real and very awful place.
But more importantly Jesus loves you.
After all, look at whose words about hell these are:
The same guy who told the blind guy to see…and he did.
The same guy who told the deaf guy to hear…and he did.
The same guy who told the lame guy to walk…and he did.
The same guy who told the storms to stop…and they did.
The same guy who told the Pharisees to go ahead and kill him because he would come back to life…
And they did…
And he did.
Jesus has street cred.
Whatever he says will happen, will happen.
And to those who reject Him?
This hell thing?
(4) Good Fish are Real
I’m not gonna lie.
Thus far this is one of the least uplifting sermons of all time.
Because – if we are talking about bad fish – how do you not begin to be filled with absolute fear!
We are sinners.
All of us.
And I am included!
I’m like some ugly carp at the bottom of a mutant ooze infested landfill with three eyeballs where his gill should be.
I’m gross and my sins are gross.
I think -- There is no reason that God would ever want to collect me in his basket and take me to heaven!
Here’s something interesting. When Jesus uses the word “end” here in verse 50, he uses the word: syntelia. That’s a form of the world telos which means: the end.
The end is when judgment will happen.
The end is when God will bring justice against sinners.
Now – here’s where things get really interesting.
Because about a year and a half after Jesus spoke this parable --
Jesus spoke something else.
On the cross.
Right before he died.
Which is the exact same root words that Jesus used in our parable to denote the end times.
IT IS FINISHED.
In other words, judgment has happened! From God’s perspective – Jesus has been judged as the bad fish.
And you – friends—you have been judged righteous.
Think about that!
We are sinners.
We are filled with a yucky past.
We are grody to the touch.
Yet because of what Jesus has done, you have been declared GOOD.
Ready to take home in the take basket.
And understand this point too:
We are not judged by our good merits.
We are not judged by our good deeds.
We are not judged by our good tries.
We are judged entirely by what Jesus did for us on the cross!
And we are judged righteous.
And by faith in Jesus, we are the good fish!
We will not be thrown out.
We will be collected and taken home.
(5) Heaven is Real
Because that’s what the good fish have to look forward to.
This parable just touches the surface of it. It says that the good fish, will be placed into baskets.
But what it doesn’t say is that those baskets have someone’s name written on the handle.
They have someone’s name written in Black, Permanent Marker.
Because the good fish – that is – those made holy by faith in Jesus Christ – will be brought to God’s home.
The kingdom of righteousness.
The home of peace.
And unlike this world --
With danger lurking on every corner…
And predators chasing after us…
And giant waves of life hitting us again and again…
Heaven is peaceful.
Heaven is a place of forgiveness.
Heaven is a place of peaceful rest.
Heaven is yours.
Friends! Praise the Lord for being caught in the net and taken home to heaven. Amen.
Have you ever asked your kid to clean his room in the middle of video gaming? It never works very well.
I’m coming. Just after this level.
I’ll be there soon just a few more minutes.
Mom! I’m battling Bowser for control of the Mushroom Kingdom! If I don’t help now, the toadstools will be under his control forever. How can you talk about dirty sneakers at a time like this?
Of course – the same thing happens when you’re a grown-up.
Ever heard of a Honey-Do-List? What amazes me is how long honey do lists can become. They become long for two reasons. (1) One spouse will keep adding to it. Fix the toaster. Paint the garage. I think the heater’s broken! Could you set up a hanger system in my closet for all of my pocket scarves? (2) The other spouse will come up with reasons not to fix it. I’m going fishing. I’ve got work to do. Somebody’s gotta watch this football game, it won’t watch itself.
It makes me think: Putting things off is human nature. Procrastination is a key part of being a human.
But what about when procrastination makes its way into your spiritual life?
No big deal thing?
Today we’re continuing our series called Follow. It’s about following Jesus. Our focal point this morning is urgency. We want to learn why following Jesus is so urgent and how we can be urgent about Jesus in 2017. Before we do that, join me in a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see. Open our ears to hear what you want us to hear. Open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. The Urgency of Near
The main lesson comes from Matthew 4. This takes place after our lesson from last week. Remember? John had pointed at Jesus and said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) The heavens opened at Jesus’ baptism. A dove landed on his shoulder and a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love, with him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:15-17) Highlights.
That was a highlight for John. He had beheld the reality of his message – that a Savior was coming – with clear eyes. He must have felt pretty good.
Then, a lowlight. John, motivated by what he has seen in Jesus, keeps preaching. He preaches to the tax collectors. He preaches to prostitutes. He preaches to Pharisees. He even begins to preach to King Herod – the guy in charge of Judah. And Herod is interested in him. He wants to hear what this crazy preacher will say. He loves to hear him talk about those Pharisees. He loves to see those religious officials squirm. He loves John’s message.
Until – it hits home.
John turns and says to Herod, “And you? Stop sleeping with your brother’s wife. You aren’t married to her. She isn’t married to you. That sexual immorality. That’s one of the commandments: You shall not commit adultery. What you’re doing is wrong. It’s wrong and if you don’t change, you’re going to hell!”
Can you imagine Herod sweating? He’s embarrassed. (Thank goodness there wasn’t Twitter at that time.) He thinks it over. I can’t repent. That would make me look weak—like some crazy preacher has control over me. So instead Herod has John arrested and thrown into prison. Herod thinks, “There I’ve dealt with that. No more grand revolutionary spiritual voices for people to follow.”
And things are quiet.
When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee…From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” (Matthew 4:12,17)
What do you know about heaven? The Bible doesn’t provide a full architectural schematic of heaven. There aren’t any illustrations. You can’t find heaven on Zillow. Google Earth does not allow you to zoom in and see Peter’s car parked on a side street near the holy donut shop.
But the Bible does say this: In heaven, there is no sadness. There is no mourning. There is no sin. There is no pain. There is no hunger. There is no thirst. There is no loneliness. There is no evil. There is no cancer. There is no AIDS. There is no terror. There is no racism. There is no death. (Revelation 21)
There is God. There is his love. There is joy. There is love. There is family. There is friends. There is a peaceful forever existence in the happiness of eternity. (Revelation 21)
Sounds awesome, right?
Ok Pastor. How do I get there? Again – Heaven isn’t physical. Rand McNally doesn’t know the way. You can ask Siri and she will not know. Heaven isn’t a place you drive to, walk to, or ride a motorcycle to.
Heaven is spiritual.
Heaven is invisible.
Heaven is a place you go after this life.
Heaven is a place you go when you die.
Heaven is place you go for eternity.
Which means – God has to get you there. And since God is the one who does the transporting, understand that God is the one deciding whether you can come or not.
It’s kind of like driving in a car. I know that some people have rules when you ride in their car. No sodas. No chips. No food and drink. No melty chocolate. Why? Well – they probably have had kids spill all over the carpets as they hit a bump on the road. They would like a clean car. It is their car, so makes sense that they get to set the rules for it. I remember once trying to get into the car of my friend’s mom and she wouldn’t let me until I took off my dirty, muddy, shoes. I couldn’t be mad. It was her car, her rules. God’s the same way. Although it doesn’t bother God whether or not you are drinking a Coca-Cola when he comes to get you. There is something that God doesn’t want in heaven:
Do not be deceived: Evildoers will enter into the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)
Back to Jesus. Jesus said, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near.” It means this – Abandon sin! Turn away from sin and follow God. Stop following lust. Stop following greed. Stop following pride. Stop following gossip. Stop following your vengeful desire to yell at your wife. Stop sin and turn to God. Because sin has no place in the kingdom of heaven. God doesn’t want sin in heaven. If you have sin, God doesn’t want you in heaven.
Pause with me for a moment. Here’s what the devil tempts us to think when you see that: Ok. I’ll work on it – eventually. I’m sure I won’t die for quite some time. I’m a young person. I just reached the age that you’re able to rent a car. I’ve got a long life left. Now? I need to worry about this life. I need to work on my job. I need to work on money. I need to work on my house. I need to work on my family. I need to work on my retirement package. I need to enjoy retirement.
I’ll deal with God later.
Look at what Jesus said again. Notice he did not say, “The Kingdom of God is later.”
He didn’t say: It’s not even close.
He didn’t say: It’s way in the distance.
He didn’t say: Don’t you worry about it. You have plenty of time.
He said, “It’s near.”
As in, close.
As in, soon.
As in, you could die in the next year, in the next month, 15 minutes after worship.
As in you could choke on a cookie (God forbid) after worship in the fellowship hall!
You don’t know when it will be time. You only know that it’s near. That means you need to follow Jesus – NOW!
Do you sense the urgency?
II. The Problem of Procrastination
Maybe you’re thinking:
Pastor, this is a young person's’ thing. When people get older, they get wiser and they come to their senses.
Here's the thing. I’ve met people of all ages. Teens who have said, “Later.” People in their twenties: Later. People in their thirties: Later. People in their forties: later. People in their sixties: later. People at the end of life – at the retirement homes I visit – where I don’t even know if I’ll see them next week – that I ask to come learn about Jesus with - Later.
It’s always later. This means that the problem isn’t maturity.
A couple of years back I saw that a friend of mine on Facebook was coming to Raleigh. It was a friend from the Seattle area where I was an intern pastor. A pretty good friend. We had gone to their house and hung out — plenty of times.
But this time I only saw it on Facebook. She knew that I was in Raleigh so…why didn’t she reach out? I left a note on the Facebook wall – If you’re in the area, come visit! She said, “Sure. I might be busy, but maybe I can get away.” A week later I saw a photo on Facebook of her relaxing and drinking an iced tea at Beasley’s downtown – I left a passive aggressive comment, “That place is awesome.”
Nothing. No response. Didn’t seek to hang out. Didn’t come to church.
Suddenly, I came to a harsh realization. I just wasn’t that important. It wasn’t a matter of too busy or unable. But not important. It's the same problem when it comes to following Jesus. The reality is that if you aren’t following Jesus, then he isn’t that important to you.
You can say, I just don’t have the time. But if Jesus is important enough, you’ll make the time.
I don’t have the time for Bible study – He’s not that important.
I’m too busy for church – He’s not that important.
I’ve got too much going on to be baptized – He’s not that important.
If Jesus was important to you, you’d do everything possible to make time for him.
If you haven’t, it’s your fault. Not your boss’ scheduling. Not your health. Not the weather.
If you don’t follow God, you don’t value Him.
If you don’t value Him, that’s sin.
If you’ve got sin, you can’t get into heaven.
If you can’t get into heaven, repent!
If you repent, do so now – because the kingdom of God is near!
III. Near (Revisited)
Near. Let’s revisit that phrase, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near.” We’ve been talking about that temporally – in relationship to time. Any day. Any minute. Any hour. That’s exactly what Jesus meant.
But sometimes there’s more than meets the eye with Jesus. Sometimes Jesus means more. Sometimes the answer is so much closer than you think. Maybe you’ve heard this passages before: Jesus said, “I am the way – no one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) Put that next to the last passage. “The Kingdom of heaven is near.” Do you see it?
If you were the listening to Jesus speak, then, yes, the kingdom of heaven was near – you could die any time – it’s temporal. But it’s also spatial. As in – the entrance to the kingdom of heaven is a few feet in front of you. He’s speaking with you. He’s sitting by you. He’s Jesus.
Remember what we heard John say about Jesus last week – “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” That’s what Jesus came to do on the cross. Because the reality is that every human being has sin – sin that they can’t remove on their own – sin that disqualifies them from heaven.
Jesus came to wash us from our sins. Jesus came to clean us up. Jesus came to make us ready for heaven.
Here’s why: Jesus understood urgency. Jesus understood that if he didn’t fix the problem of sin then you would not make it to heaven with him. Jesus understood that he had to live perfectly when you couldn’t, die innocently in your place, and rise triumphantly for all of your sins. Jesus knew that he had to do this in order to get you into heaven. He knew it and in fact -- It was a priority to him.
You were a priority to him.
Do you believe this?
Do you believe in Jesus? Are you ready to follow him?
Then, there’s something very important that you need to hear:
If you haven’t made Jesus a priority, you’re forgiven.
If others things have been more important than following him, you’re forgiven.
If you follow him – even if you’ve never followed him til right now, you are forgiven.
You will be in his kingdom.
IV. What Now?
How do you react to this awesome message? How do you make following Jesus a more important part of your life?
(1) Be Willing to Leave your Nets
Look at the account that takes place right after we hear about Jesus’ ministry: 18 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him.
Did you see that? They left their nets. That’s not a big deal if you’ve never touched a fish in your life and can’t tell the difference between a catfish and a guppy. But for these guys – it was everything! They left their nets – their livelihood. They left what made them money and followed him.
Do the same. Money is important, but not important enough to jeopardize your eternal future. Not important enough to jeopardize heaven.
If you are so busy, that you don’t have anytime to actively follow Jesus – make a change. Talk to your boss. Get Sundays off. Get a weekday off to join a small group. Turn off your work email at home and turn on your Bible.
Might you make less money? Might you not get promoted? Of course. That’s the reality of a world that doesn’t see the importance in following Jesus. But there’s eternal value in following Jesus. He will strengthen your faith in his Word. He will encourage you through his people. He will promote you – all the way to heaven.
(2) Be Willing to Leave Your Family
Look at the next verse: 21 Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.
These guys go a step farther. They leave their family – not that their dad was necessarily against their leaving or putting up a big stink about it – but it’s still a challenge to leave family. And sometimes family can be one of the biggest challenges to following Jesus:
You’re still believing that? I don’t like how it’s changed you. I think you should give it up.
You’re going to church? Can’t you stay home and have breakfast in bed with me instead?
You can’t come hang out because you’re serving God? That’s crazy! If that’s how you’re going to act, don’t bother spending time with me.
But God isn’t saying – Have nothing to do with your family. We can see them. We love them. They love us. But God is saying don’t make them more important than following Jesus.
Because they don’t love you more than Jesus.
Because they didn’t give up their lives for you, Jesus did that.
Because your family can’t get you to heaven, only Jesus can.
(3) Embrace your New Family
Still that’s hard. How do you do leave behind family?
With your new family.
That’s what happened to the disciples. They became brothers. They became brothers and sisters. That was key because they were travelling around Asia minor spreading God’s Word. We still use that today when we talk about each other.
This is important. Because if you’re the only one in your family who believes in Jesus – that’s tough. It’s hard. But you’ve got family here. People who love you. People who care about you. People who will encourage you to follow Jesus all the way to heaven. Lean on them.
And if you’ve got lots of believing family – understand that about people who don’t – it’s hard. They need you to be their family. You can come here and catch up with your family sure. But branch out! There are others here who need your encouragement. They need your uplifting. Be someone to lean on.
Hebrews says this, “Let us encourage each other—and all the more as we see the Day approaching.” Do you hear the urgency? It isn’t just in following Jesus, but urgency in encouraging one another…because you never know when Jesus will come back. Be ready. Amen.
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.
Did you get any gift cards for Christmas? Sometimes you might get a gift card to a place that you have never heard of before. Sometimes they're not gift cards, so much as gift certificates, or pieces of paper that the small business owner wrote "$10 free" on in blue ink.
What do you do when you get a gift card to a place that you don't know where it is? Google it. Use your map App on your iPhone. Guys, we pretend like we know where it is and then trust our man-sense to get there.
However you choose to do it -- this may be one thing you are doing this POST Christmas season: SEEKING out stores in order to use a gift card or maybe just return a gift. Today God's Word reminds us that these places are not the only things we should seek after Christmas. But that we should also SEEK GOD!
Open up to Isaiah 55. Remember Isaiah was a prophet at a time when the people of Israel didn't seek God. Instead, they sought their own sexual desires, their own greedy wants, and their own earthly happiness. That was what was most important to them. God was not.
It was Isaiah's job to tell them differently. He says, Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near."
I. When to Seek Him
Do you remember Beanie Babies? People used to go crazy for those things! Moms would pull up in their soccer vans, sprint out of the door, hurdle a baby stroller and get to the McDonald's counter in order to get a tiny bean-filled stuffed wallaby.
Why did people go nuts for that stuff? Because they were only available for a limited time. The value was increased because once they were gone, there were no more!
Isaiah's words are similar. Find God now while he may be found! Find Him while he is available. He will only be available for a limited time. Once that time is over, if you haven't found him, then you'll never find him.
Of course, are most people more urgent about God or Beanie babies? About God or some post Christmas deal? About God or getting home to watch the NFL playoffs because "the game is only on for a limited time!"
Brothers and sisters, we need to change our urgency!
You might be asking, "Why? I've got all the time in the world. When won't I be able to find God anymore?"
Answer: When you are dead. Dead people can't find God. Dead people can't find much of anything. The Bible tells us, "Man is destined to die once and after that to face judgment."
Did you hear that? Die Once. That passage alone eliminates a host of false teachings: There is no purgatory. There is no millenial reign on earth. There is no reincarnation. There is no second chance to find God later. Stop thinking there isn't urgency and find God him now before it's too late!
II. Where NOT to Seek Him!
Isaiah is pretty clear of where God is not. "Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts." Because God is not in wicked ways and you won't find him in unrighteous thoughts.
He's not at the bottom of a liquor bottle. There's nothing heavenly found on the 14th page of pornographic search results. You won't experience and find God through liberal sexuality. The high from whatever will not lift you up so you can see God. Sin does not lead to God!
Yet by the amount of time we spend seeking out sin, you'd think it does lead to God. "I need to clear up my schedule so I can have drinks with the ladies and make fun of all my neighbors." "I need to work all weekend so I can have more things and stuff." "I need to stop doing everything else and watch a couple of hours of this TV show with awful language and adult situations."
Brothers and sisters, stop seeking sin and seek God!
III. Where TO Seek God?
Look back at the Gospel of John. We read more of this chapter on Christmas Eve. The beginning verses are all about someone called "The Word." After some detective work in those surrounding verses, it was determined The Word was referring to Jesus Christ. Now read verse 18: No one has ever seen God, but God the One and only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known."
In other words, we see God in the Word himself. We see God in Jesus and we see Jesus in the Word -- The Bible.
Now let's be clear. I'm not asking you to pick up the book and put it under your feet as you stand at the top of the Blue Ridge parkway so you can get a better glimpse of God in nature. Nor do I want you to use the book to prop open the door to a theological discussion at some liberal university where "they determine what God must be." Nor should you use this book to hold up your keyboard so your wrists won't get tired and you can better search for "What's God like?" on the Google.
God wants you to read it. To hear it. To study it. Because in his Word, you will find God.
Find God in a barn quietly sleeping next to his mother. Find God in the carpenter's shop handing his dad a hammer. Find God on the hillside, smiling as children play near him. Find God, smiling softly as he raises a girl from the dead. Find God standing in a courtroom, listening to the insults hurled at him. Find God on the streets, buckling under the weight of his cross. Find God on a hill, nailed to that cross and dying.
It's really quite amazing! Because instead of revealing himself in some loud, thundering lightning bolts or a glowing, magnificent rainbow, God reveals himself most clearly in a human. A condemned, dying human.
OK pastor, but how do I know this Jesus is God? And how do I know this book about him isn't just the mistaken words of a few human beings?
It really is a matter of trusting Jesus. Because Jesus called the Bible -- the Old Testament portion -- he called it God's Word. Then, his apostles the very people sent out by Jesus' to teach Jesus' teachings wrote the New Testament and declared Jesus -- who was God -- his Words and teachings.
Again the skeptic might say: "But why should I trust Jesus? You said earlier he was a sad pathetic man who died on a cross."
Simple. Jesus came back to life! No other human being has ever been able to bring himself back to life! If Jesus didn't do that, his legacy would live on in books and that's it. But Jesus returned from the dead! He did what only God can do!
And there were hundreds who saw Him alive again! At least 500 to be exact. Most of whom were still alive when this book was completed. Who read what it said about Jesus and who confirmed: "Yep. He was alive. Yep. He was God. Yep. This book is of extreme importance! This holy book is how you will find God!"
IV. Why Seek Him.
That might be the best question to consider. Why seek God at all? Because if the Bible is God's Word, then doesn't it describe how God wipes out sinner after sinner? Doesn't it tell of a worldwide flood? Fire and brimstone destroying to sinful cities? A sinner swallowing earthquake? And these are all nothing compared to the eternal fires of hell it describes! Why would I want to seek Him?
Because there's more to God. Read what Isaiah tells us in the next part of verse: Let them turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on them.
Not "he might have mercy." Not "He'll consider having mercy." "Not he will have mercy, if..."
Simply: "He will have mercy on them."
That's why you need to seek God! Because God will give you mercy. Forgiveness. Eternal life. Salvation. To all who turn to him.
This mercy that God bestows is not a limited time offer. It didn't expire at the end of 2013 so that any sin you sinned in 2014 isn't covered under Jesus' death on the cross. No. God's mercy keeps on repeating! God will have mercy for the addiction that you struggle to get past. God will have mercy for those awful sinful thoughts you had yesterday evening. God will have mercy for the big sins. God will have mercy for the little sins.
Simply put, God will have mercy, because He has been merciful! He showed us himself in Jesus who died on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins.
And the Bible keeps telling you that! It tells you God loved you that he gave his one and only Son for you that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. IT tells you It is by grace you have been saved through faith in Jesus Christ. It tells you God has clothed you with garments of salvation. And In Jesus we have redemption!
It's like that $30 Mug you can get at Starbucks. You pay for it once and then you can get as much free coffee as you want in it. God's Word repeatedly declares to the trouble conscience the forgiveness of sins.
Except it doesn't even cost $30. It's free! Isaiah emphasizes that with the final words of our text: "Let them turn to our God and he will freely pardon."
It would be a downer if it wasn't true. If after spending your entire life trying to find God, you finally stumbled upon him and he spoke to you and said "Glad you found me. Did you bring the righteous deeds I require? No? Come back when you've figured out the secret to being perfect."
That would be sad. But that's not what God will say. Instead, as we sinners find God in the message of Jesus found in his Word, God smiles. He simply says, "My child, you are forgiven."
Brothers and sisters, seek this compassionate LORD in 2014. Seek him while he may be found. Forsake wicked ways. Receive his mercy! Amen.
Between 2007-2011, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of over 240 Christmas tree fires per year.
Here are a few tips that so this doesn't happen to your home: Water the tree. Turn off the lights when you aren't enjoying them. Avoid the threat altogether and buy an artificial tree.
Following these warnings will help prevent your Christmas from going up in smoke, but today we're going to hear another fire warning. Today, John the Baptists gives another type of fire warning. Only the type of fire he was concerned about wasn't electrical. It wasn't a forest fire. It wasn't even radioactive.
The fire he was warning of was much worse...
Who should heed John's warning?
John was a popular preacher. Crowds came to him. He was such a strange phenomena that, unlike most church who try and try again to get people to join them for a Christmas service, John simply stood in the desert and preached.
I suppose the attraction was like that of a sideshow. He had scraggly hair. He ate bugs. He wore scratchy animal skin for clothing. Compare that to the gelled hair, fashionably ripped jeans, and laser lights of today's mega churches.
The point is that there were lots of people coming to see John. He told them all to repent. However, there was one specific group of people that he spent extra time warning:
The Pharisees and Sadducees. Respected teachers of the Law.
Look at what John the Baptist called them: “You brood of vipers!" Poisonous snakes. It's not exactly a pet name. Try calling your spouse that the next time you're on a date. When you're sleeping on the couch, don't say I didn't warn you.
But John wasn't being mean. He was trying to save them. They were sinful. They needed a Savior. But they didn't believe it one bit! They looked around at the prostitutes, drunkards, and cheating tax collectors that were gathered around John and thought: “We're glad he's doing this for them! They need it. But not us. We're fine."
I talked to someone this past week who told me that John the Baptist went over the top sometimes.
Really? Can you really go over the top in warning people of the dangers of hell?
Now you might be listening to this and saying, “Good for John. I'm glad he called out those Pharisees and Saducees. They sound like a bunch of jerks. Like my boss. He's a jerk. An atheist. He could use a good old fashioned John the Baptist tongue lashing. He's not an every other week, church going Christian like me. He didn't even mark his religious affiliation on Facebook. I'll be sure to forward this week's sermon to him. He needs it more than me."
If that's your attitude with your boss or anyone, if you think the Message of John the Baptist doesn't apply to you, then aren't you doing the same thing the Pharisees did? Aren't you, in essence, a Pharisee?
Here's the truth: John's message was a warning to the Pharisees. And to you.
Why are we in Danger?
A simple reason. John told the Pharisees, “8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance," because they weren't producing fruits of repentance.
God says the same thing about you. You need to produce fruits of repentance.
If you are thinking, “I know what bananas are. I know what apples are. I even know what starfruit is, but what in the world is a repentance fruit,” consider this:
Repentance means turning. A turning from sin to God. It's a 180.
Fruit of repentance refers to actions produced from repentance. Actions produced from turning to God.
Do you have fruits of repentance in your life? When you say, “I'm going to stop getting drunk.” Do you stop? Or do you find yourself grabbing a few too many beers at the football game right after church? And then, maybe, a shot because your team is getting too far behind?
Do you say, “I'm going to end the sinful sexual relationship.” (Homosexual or heterosexual) Then, church ends and you get nervous and you talk yourself back into staying in the sinful relationship.
Do you say, “I'm going to stop being so greedy.” Then, Monday comes and you spend an hour at work counting up how much money you might make with our Christmas bonus, all while grimacing at the email you just got about a potential Christmas gift you can contribute to.
Do you say, “I've got to top gossiping so much.” Then, hear a really juicy story that just needs to be reposting on Facebook?
Do you think: "I really need to get into God's Word more and fellowship with other Christians at church." Then, Sunday morning rolls around and you think, "I'll do that next week. This week, I'm too tired."
These are not fruits of repentance. These are rotten fruits of impenitence. If that's what you are producing, then you are in trouble.
Because God has a green thumb. He's read Better Homes and Gardens. He knows that if a tree isn't producing fruit, then it's no good. And if you aren't producing fruit, then the Divine gardener will no longer consider you worthy of taking up space in his patch of soil.
Listen to John again, “10 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”
In other words, soon. Produce REAL fruit now!!! God already has his axe out. He's already marked a line right where He will cut. He's lined up his blade. He's taken a deep breath. All it will take is one mighty Divine blow and you will be cut down. Dragged away. Taken out back. And thrown into the fire. The eternal fire. Hell.
Just Like the fire alarm at a school, John's words are loud and jarring. Not to be mean, but to get these people's attention. To warn them of the fire that was approaching.
And just like the fire alarm at school, people are tempted to plug their ears and ignore it. “It's just a drill. There's no real danger. I'm fine.”
Brothers and sister, listen to these Words of the Advent Fire Drill! This is not a drill. Repent! Turn from sin to God. Because God knows how to stop the fire.
1. Use Water
Think about what John was doing. He says it himself. 11 “I baptize you with water for repentance.”
Luke writes more about this practice of baptism. “John preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” 1 Peter 3:21 says, “Baptism now saves you.” Titus 3:5 says, “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal.”
Think of firemen. They douse fires with water.
But that's literally. How can water douse the fire of God's wrath? Because of who it's linked to!
Think about baptism. We are "baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Mt. 28:19) If we were baptized into our own name OR into the name of our great grandfather OR into the name of our favorite superhero, it wouldn't mean anything. No human being can prevent the wrath of God.
But God can. And that's exactly who Jesus was. It's exactly whom you were baptized into.
If you haven't been baptized into God's grace or had your child baptized, think seriously about what God's promise in baptism is. If you believe Jesus rose from the dead, why not believe his saving promise in baptism?
2. Fight Fire with Fire
Listen to John's words about this Jesus: "But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”
Jesus did just that. At Pentecost, he sent the Holy Spirit to his disciples. Suddenly, the small room they were in sounded like a hurricane. They started speaking in languages that they hadn't previously learned. They saw tongues of fire appear on their heads!
The power that Jesus showed at Pentecost is the same power that is in baptism. It is the same fiery power that saves us. Because we need to fight fire with fire. In other words, we need to turn to Jesus to save us from God's coming wrath because the only one who can prevent this fire from overtaking us is God himself. He does it, because God's love is more powerful than his wrath.
It was his love that caused God Almighty to become a little one celled infant in Mary's tummy. It was his love that caused God Almighty to humbly live amongst sinners. It was his love that caused God Almighty to die on the cross! It was his love that caused God Almighty to suffer the fiery wrath of God that we deserved!
It's kind of like a campfire. Once all the firewood is burned up, then there is no longer any danger of fire. The fire goes out.
Jesus suffered all of God's wrath for us. Now, through faith in Jesus Christ, we will not suffer God's wrath. It's already been burned up.
III. A Fireproof Barn
God doesn't stop there. Listen to what John reveals, “12 Jesus' winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
John says that Jesus will come and take the wheat away. By wheat, he is referring to those who produce fruit. He is referring to believers!
And listen, dear believers, to what God promises you! He will take you to his barn. You will not be out back by the big bonfire of hell. You will be safe. Forever. In his fireproof barn, enjoying the cool air of our Lord's love.
So, repent! Turn from your sins. Stop doing them. Live for the Lord. He loves you so.
If you are nervous of what life might be like without a sin you've been in for quite some time, look at your Lord! His love is more powerful than his wrath. Won't his life provide for you in your life? Won't his love help you to live life apart from sin? Won't he provide for your better than whatever that sin was?
Because this is God's promise to you: Through baptism into his family the sins that would cause God's fire to come upon are removed. Our powerful Lord has used the fire of his love to consume the fire of his wrath. He promises to one day take you to heaven.
The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 The night is nearly over; the day is almost here.
So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.13 Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy.
14 Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh. --Romans 13:11-14
It is impossible not to know that Christmas is coming.
Christmas sales are going on in any store you enter. Christmas ads fill up the majority of commercials on TV. There are reminders to get your shopping done in newspapers, on the internet, in your emails, on your smart phones, even via text message! Stores pretty much do everything short of sending an employee into your house while you are sleeping to tap you on the forehead and whisper: "Christmas is coming soon!"
Christmas isn't the only day that's fast approaching.
We're in the season of Advent. Advent means we remember to prepare our hearts for the arrival of Jesus. At Christmastime...to be sure, but also for his next arrival on earth--on the Last Day.
And while you probably won't receive any text message reminders and there probably won't be any full page ads in the News and Observer, Paul tells us this: the Day is coming!
I. Sooner Than You Think
Take a look at what Paul wrote in Romans 13:11 "The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed."
If you are like most people, then you are already making decision about when to prepare for Christmas this year. When do I put up the lights? When do I put up the tree? When do I buy the gifts? When do I wrap the gifts? When do I make the chocolate covered peanut butter bon bons? When do I eat the chocolate covered peanut butter bon bons?
If you were wondering when you should start preparing for the day of our salvation, Paul tells us that we should already have been preparing! Look at his words: "The hour has already come!" You should have been preparing for Jesus' return, years ago!
You might say, "Why? Isn't he coming back in a couple thousand years?"
Because of one simple truth that we learn from Matthew 24: No one knows the day or the hour. It could be any time.
The only thing we know is that it is nearer now than it was last Advent. In fact, it's nearer now than it was when I started this sentence. It's always getting closer. Because unlike Christmas, which, in 25 more days will be 364 days away, the number of days to the day of Jesus' second coming are always getting shorter!
But Jesus' return is not meant to be frightening. Look at what Paul says in verse 12, "Night is nearly over; the day is almost here."
This is a great metaphor! Because night time is generally scarier than daytime. At night you hear noises. You can't see. Shadows deceive you into thinking the Grinch is around the corner ready to steal Christmas! If you have ever been a little kid pulling the covers over your eyes, then you know what a relief it is when the light of the sun finally peeks into your room. "It's daytime. The scary stuff is gone."
When the day of Jesus' second arrival comes, the scary stuff will really be gone.
No more evil. No more sin. No more danger. No more catastrophe, sickness, hatred, or sadness.
No more guilt. Only heaven.
For we will be in the light of the day! We will be with the Light of the World. We will be with God himself enjoying the sun-like rays of from the face of the Son. Soaking in the fresh air of heaven. Relaxing in the cool breeze of the Spirit's gentle movement.
II. Get Ready Now!
It's amazing how often society reminds us that Christmas is coming. But it's even more amazing how many people, come December 24th, will be scrambling to the local Radio Shack to pick up their wives a curling iron that also plays the radio. "Because that's what she wants, right!?!"
Don't make that mistake with the day of your salvation. Get ready now!
If you are wondering, how to prepare for that...look at the next verses from Romans: "Let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light... Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh."
This principle makes sense. Because if you are planning on going Christmas shopping anytime soon, there is one thing you NEED to do. (Unless maybe you go shopping online, but still...bear with me.) You NEED to put on clothes. Take off your footie jammies and put clothes on first!
If you don't, just wait till you see the looks you get at Crabtree Mall!
The same is true in preparing for Jesus' second coming. We take off our old clothes. Get rid of our deeds of darkness. Get rid of a inner psyche that says, "I don't need Jesus. I don't believe in him. I think it's a sham."
That's not ready. Not at all.
Instead, clothe yourself with Jesus. And that doesn't mean go get a WWJD shirt and wear it around town! It means to contemplate what he has done. Meditate on the true meaning of Christmas. Take in the precious truths of the Gospel --Jesus became a human at Christmas only so that he could die a human 33 years later and, in turn, save you from your sins and give eternal life to you through faith in Him!
What happens when you do that? A miracle.
The Holy Spirit works through his Word to clothe us with Jesus Christ. His life. His works. His sinless day to day activities. His God pleasing accomplishments.
This is faith. We might not think of it as clothing, but it is. Holy Spirit produced faith places Jesus' cloak of righteousness on our souls. It means you are forgiven. Forgiven for not preparing. Forgiven for not caring to prepare. Forgiven through faith in Jesus.
Forgiveness as clothing? Through faith in Jesus that's exactly what it is. It's even better than Calvin Klein.
Then, once you have been clothed with Jesus, don't go back to bed! That's like putting on your fresh TJ Maxx clothes for work and then getting back into bed.
Act like it's daytime!
Can you imagine what it would be like if everyone acted like daytime was nighttime? How would your coworkers feel if you brushed your teeth in the water fountain at work? How many men would you meet at the nightclub other than Bob the Janitor? Would your boss would be so keen about wearing your footie pajamas at the investment meeting. How would the other drivers on Six Forks feel if you were sleeping while you were driving? Although, I'm pretty sure that fireflies would be just fine with you trying to catch them in the hot sun.
It doesn't make sense to do nighttime things during the day. Paul tells us that it's the same spiritually. Since it is almost day, we need to act like it's day! We must stop living in darkness. He says, 13 Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy.
In other words, stop it! Take off the coat of drunkenness. Get rid of that old, sinful relationship. Throw out the sailor language. Cast aside fears and doubts! Put on the love of Jesus. Live for Jesus. Now is the time!!!
It starts in the heart. Read with me verse 14 again, "Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh." In other words, stop worrying so much about earthly things!
"But, pastor," you might say, "that's hard to do during Christmas. If I stop worrying about earthly things, then, I'm going to miss an awesome deal on a pair of diamond earrings."
Yes, you might. But if you don't worry about spiritual things, you may miss out on the diamond studded streets of heaven. I'd rather pay three dollars more for a pair of Doc Martins and be in heaven, then save a bit and endanger my faith!
Have you ever noticed how hard it is to get kids to go to bed the closer it gets to Christmas? They get so excited, they can't sleep! And the night before Christmas? They just want to stay up all night, watch the presents arrive, hand off a few cookies and rip off the wrapping paper before you can even put a scoop or Folgers into the coffee maker!
Wouldn't it be amazing if that was how we prepared for Christ's second coming? If we with tepid excitement, we came to church to prepare our faith. If we happily sat our kids down, to prepare their hearts for Jesus. If we asked for another handful of five more invitations to our Christmas service, because it's so exciting to prepare for Jesus' return!
Brothers and sisters, get ready. Prepare now. Get ready for Christmas. Get ready for Christ. Get ready for your salvation! Amen.