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. Last week, so far, we have heard that the kingdom of God is like a sower, a growing seed, a mustard seed, a homeless fox, an abandoned burial plot and a plow.
Today’s parable is well timed, because it fits in perfectly with a certain holiday.
I don’t know about you, but this past Wednesday, there seemed to be an extreme increase in the number of pirates that live in Raleigh.
Over at the new school, we have a security system with a key fob and you’d think it would lock out pirates, but these pirates were tricky and made their way into the school -- little 3-foot-tall pirates. With eye patches and stuffed parrots.
Pirates love treasure: gold necklaces, silver artifacts, coins, jewelry, bottles of rum. They loved treasure so much that they’d run ashore near a local port, approach someone’s front step and force them to give them treasure.
Not at all unlike what some little 3-foot-tall pirates did around my house on Wednesday!
And then, pirates take the treasure, sail to some deserted isle and bury it.
Deep under the ground.
With a few pieces of wood lain across the top:
“X” marks the spot.
Jesus’ parable today says this: “The kingdom of God is like a hidden treasure.” Before we look at it, 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. A Hidden Treasure
Jesus’ parable is from Matthew 13. Take a look: The Kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field. (v.44) In his parable, the treasure is found by a man at work in a field.
It’s the middle of the hot day.
He’s using a fence post digger to dig a hole for the fence post he’s installing around the back of his owner’s property.
He’s slams and digs.
He slams and digs.
He slams and digs.
All day long.
Sometime around quitting time….
He slams and…
He slams and…
At first, he thinks it’s a rock. He looks around to see if he can adjust the post hole so he doesn’t have to go through the trouble of moving the rock. But right as he’s about to adjust the hole to the right and he’s thinking of his company’s slogan: “THE RIGHT HOLE IN THE RIGHT SPOT ALL THE TIME,” the glint of the evening sun shines off of something in the middle of the ground.
What is it?
He reaches down.
He brushes the dirt off the top to reveal – a metal crest on the top of an ancient chest.
His heart starts pounding.
To the front.
To the back.
To the side.
Until he gets enough of the dirt out of the way to pull the chest out of the hole and look inside.
It must be worth millions of dollars.
The man looks around.
The thing is – this isn’t his land. It isn’t his property. And the chest isn’t his property.
If he lets anyone know that he found it on this land, then the treasure will no longer be his. It’ll belong to the guy who’s fence he’s digging.
He puts the chest back into the hole.
He covers it with dirt.
He takes two twigs and aligns them in an “x”.
He heads up to his employer, wishes him a good evening and leaves for the day.
But his work isn’t done.
Later that night, he gets onto his bank account and empties his 401k into his checking account.
He goes on Facebook marketplace and begins placing anything he owns on sale:
His bass fishing boat.
His Mickey Mantle Rookie Card.
Even his Xbox!
The next morning, he heads to the bank and he puts his house on mortgage!
He takes all of this money.
He heads to work.
He slams a check worth 3 times the amount of the property onto his client’s desk:
I’ll buy this property.
I just think it’s nice.
I figure if I put fence post holes into it; it might as well be mine.
At 3 times the price, his client can’t say no.
The man buys the property.
The property is his.
Everything on the property is his.
But he doesn’t care about most of it.
He only wants THE TREASURE.
II. A Priceless Treasure
Jesus says this: “The Kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field.” (v.44)
Because here is the truth:
God’s kingdom is eternally priceless.
There is nothing as valuable.
… nothing as precious.
…nothing as eternally priceless as the kingdom of God.
It lasts forever.
Brings enduring peace.
And connects you to your heavenly father.
If you’ve ever searched for kingdom of God, then, you understand the digging for treasure scenario.
Because the religious landscape can be a lot like the Sahara Desert.
Places to dig everywhere. Where is the treasure…?
And so you start digging near a very peaceful looking pile of dirt.
A lotus flower is growing nearby.
“Oh! This must be the Sand of Spirituality. I’ve heard of that. Maybe this is where I’ll find the treasure of God’s kingdom.”
And you dig
And you learn breathing practices.
And you fold your body into a pretzel.
And you listen to Yanni.
And you think that you are closer to God…
Because you stopped feeling stress…
And started feeling nothingness.
Oh, the wonderful nothingness.
Suddenly – you think of that jerk Bob from work.
He should be slapped.
And you realize…
You are the same.
You still sin.
You still feel guilty.
Now you just own a bunch of Yanni CDs.
This is not a treasure worth keeping.
You walk a bit farther and you find a big old pile of rocks.
It’d be tough work to dig over there. But then again – that’d make it the perfect place to put the treasure – under the stones of Self-Righteousness.
And you dig and work hard because you figure if you work harder than anyone else, God will be impressed!
You work hard at being nicer to your family.
You work hard at never saying a mean thing.
You work hard to give extra money to charity.
You work hard at never taking a second glance a member of the opposite sex.
You work hard at being self-righteous.
Until you’re scrolling through Facebook after a day of finding self-righteousness and…
An ad pops up for a TRIAL offer of something…with a scantily clad lady telling you to buy it.
And you look her a bit longer than you should.
And you think about using some of the money penned for God to buy that thing to make the pretty lady happy.
And your spouse walks in and sees what you’re looking at, so you say something mean in response.
And then you want to get rid of the guilty your feeling, so you tell her about all the bad things she has done.
Those stones of self-righteousness come tumbling in on top of you.
This isn’t the treasure.
And you dig other places.
You dig in the mine of Material Wealth. No treasure.
You dig under the sands of self-allegation. No treasure.
You dig in the pile of filth known as Facebook. No treasure.
No connection with God.
In fact, you start to notice a pattern – all these attempts at getting closer to God are the same:
Do Mormon things and God will like you.
Do Islamic things and God will like you.
Do Jewish things and God will like you.
Do Hindu things and God will like you.
Do Tom Cruise things and…well…Tom Cruise will get richer.
It’s all the same! It’s all worthless! It’s all meaningless!
When you’re about to give up.
When you’re tired.
When you’re exhausted.
When you say: “I’m through! I’m done with this religious stuff. God hates me and that’s that. I might as well give up. I might as well put down my shovel and…”
What was that?
There appears to be something here.
There appears to be something different here.
This is the Gospel.
It’s the message of sins forgiven.
It’s the message of the true God.
It’s the message that Jesus lived for you.
It’s the message that Jesus died for you.
It’s the message that Jesus rose for you.
It’s the message that Jesus has removed every last one of your sins.
It’s the message that you are his child, you are forgiven, and you will be in heaven with Him.
It’s this message:
You know it is was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. (1 Peter 1:18-19)
Think about it!
That’s the value of Jesus’ blood.
It’s more valuable than gold.
It’s more valuable than silver.
It’s more valuable than a treasure chest of jewels, a treasure chest of rubies or even a treasure chest of those golden foil wrapped coins with chocolate inside.
It’s more valuable than good works.
It’s more valuable than good feelings.
It’s more valuable than any halfhearted, sin-tainted attempts at being holy.
It’s the blood of Jesus.
Our sacrificial lamb.
The perfect Son of God.
His blood has infinite value.
And friends – it pays for your sins.
It pays for your guilt.
It means forgiveness – full forgiveness – free forgiveness – absolute forgiveness --
III. WHAT NOW?
(1) Give up Untreasures
That’s what the man who found the buried treasure did. He sold everything he had. He made room for the real treasure.
He made certain the REAL treasure would be his.
Do the same with God’s kingdom.
Because here’s the truth:
The devil will do everything possible to make you think that something that’s NOT the treasure…IS the REAL treasure.
Don’t get rid of that addiction; it’s too valuable to feeling good.
Don’t get rid of that priority; it’s too valuable to being cool.
Don’t get rid of that self- righteousness; that’s the secret treasure that truly connects you to God.
It’s all lies.
Lies that will prevent you from keeping the true treasure buried within your heart.
And if you listen to the devil, instead of burying the Gospel deep in your heart, you cling to something utterly worthless.
It’s like someone trying to offer you a check for a hundred, billion dollars!
But you really like the piece of mushed banana that you have in your left hand right now so…I’ll pass.
Don’t be foolish!
Don’t fall for the devil’s lies.
The Gospel is eternally priceless!
Get rid of the fake treasure that’s taking up the spot where you’re the REAL treasure of Jesus needs to be.
And bury the treasure of the Gospel deep in your heart.
(2) Bury the Treasure
That doesn’t mean: “Hide the Gospel and tell no one about Jesus.” Nope.
That’s entirely contradictory to Jesus’ own directive to “Go and make disciples of all nations…by teaching them.” (Matthew 28)
Rather it means to hide the Gospel deep within your own heart.
To bury it deep within your soul.
To place it into the very core of your being and who you are.
How do you do that? Get a surgery with one of the fine doctors at Duke and have him implant one of those little Bibles from the Gideons?
You spend time in God’s Word.
You read The Gospel message.
You study the Gospel message.
You gather for worship.
You gather for Bible study.
You spend time with Jesus, because in doing so – his message – the message of the Gospel – moves…
From the pages of Scripture
To your eyes.
To your brain.
To your heart.
It’s like a beautiful diamond. You go down to the Jeweler’s and look at it in the light --
And if it’s cut well – no matter how you look at it – you see something magnificent.
It’s the same with the Gospel message.
Here’s I see God’s incredible compassion.
Here I look at God’s amazing power.
Here I look at the value of Christ’s redemption.
Here I enjoy the view of my atonement.
Here I see the mesmerizing perspective of peace with God.
And here I see the glories of heaven itself.
Bury God’s kingdom deep in your heart.
** The audio has an extra story in it. You can find it here **
I said the parable of the treasure fits well into a recent holiday.
But I wasn’t referring to Halloween.
Wednesday was also the 501st Anniversary of the Reformation. It’s the anniversary of a time when the treasure of Gospel was rediscovered.
Because the religious climate at that time – in the Christian church – was such that there was no treasure.
If you wanted to get God’s’ forgiveness, you needed to…
Do good things.
Say prayers to Mary.
Cross yourself in the right way.
Give money to charity.
And buy pieces of paper that said: “You are forgiven.”
And it was in that climate – in that treasure-less church that God re-revealed the TRUE treasure of the Gospel.
That Jesus is your Savior.
That in Him you are forgiven.
That by faith you are saved.
Friends, it’s 500 years later.
That treasure is at our fingertips again.
Don’t lose it.
Bury it deep within.
Today we are continuing our series called The Kingdom of God is like… and hearing yet another parable from Jesus about the kingdom of God. Remember, a parable is an earthly story that tells about the kingdom of God. We’ve heard two – both centered around farming.
We’ve heard so far…
…The Kingdom of God is like a farmer sowing seed – it lands on a lot of different soil types and has a lot of different results; just as God’s Word falls on lots of different heart types and has a lot of different results.
…The Kingdom of God is like a growing seed – the seed grows with repetitive, repeated, faithful, and persistent care; just as the seed of faith grows with repetitive, repeated, faithful and persistent use of God’s Word.
Today we are adding yet another farming parable to our list of Jesus’ parables and it’s going to teach us yet another facet of God’s kingdom. Before we begin, let’s pray: 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. The Story of the Mustard Seed
The parable is taken from Mark 4 which is the same chapter that the last two parables are from. So, it’s quite likely that Jesus tells it as a follow up to the other two parables that we mentioned before.
I love Jesus’ opening introduction to the parable in verse 30:
Again Jesus said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it?”
You kind of get the impression that the disciples need some help.
They sat through two parables of Jesus – two teachings about the kingdom of God.
The first one they were confused about.
After the second one, didn’t seem to help much.
They must have been a lot of blank stares.
And now Jesus, the omniscient, Lord of heaven and earth, is trying to explain the divinely complete and eternally developed kingdom of God to these temporal, finite, and much simpler humans.
It’s kind of like trying to give directions to someone who doesn’t really know the area. Has that ever happened to you? Maybe you’re trying to get them to church. You tell them:
Head south on Falls of Neuse until you get to Newton Rd. Turn left and then it’ll be the little brown church to the right.
Do you know where Ravenscroft is? The library? It’s in that general vicinity.
Scratching their heads.
Go to the Han Dee Hugo Station. Turn left. Go 2500 feet. Turn left into the Parking lot with the sign for Gethsemane Lutheran Church.
SIGH. Just take my GPS.
Jesus shares that frustration. Trying to teach the things of God to puny minded humans beings.
So he says…
The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground. (v.31)
If you wanted a BIG plant to grow in your garden, how big a seed would you need to plant?
The bigger the seed; the bigger the plant, right?
A sunflower seed.
A pumpkin seed.
An avocado pit.
They’re pretty big in the world of seeds; they must produce big plants. It makes sense.
What about a mustard seed?
Have you ever seen one of those? (Think of the Grey Poupon Mustard jar.) They are super tiny and barely visible if I held one up for you in the front of church.
In fact, it’s so tiny – that if I planted it – and if anything grew from it – I’d expect it to be a tiny, little grass sprout.
When planted, the seed grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade. (v.32)
It’s bigger than a sunflower.
Bigger than a pumpkin plant.
Bigger than an avocado bush.
It’s basically a tree. About 6, 7, 8 foot high.
Big enough that birds land in its branch.
All of that happens from this little seed.
Such a small, insignificant seed leads to an incredibly significant plant!
II. False Expectations
What’s the point of Jesus’ story?
Is Jesus just a really big fan of mustard?
Should we all go to Food Lion and grab a yellow, squeezable bottle of French’s mustard to put in the offering plate next Sunday?
Remember – a parable is an earthly story that teaches us about the kingdom of God.
Think about it…
What is God trying to teach us about His kingdom?
This past Monday at 9:30am I went to a local retirement home. It’s something that I’ve been doing for about 5 years now. I head to the home. I do an acapella, communion-less version of today’s service. I tell the people there about Jesus.
To be fair – when we first started, they put me on in the big living room area. And…I’m pretty loud. It wasn’t hard to get people’s attention. There was plenty of room. Usually we’d gather together about 20 some people to worship Jesus on a given Monday.
Recently they relocated me to a much smaller side room because some thought I was a bit of a distraction.
Recently the Lifestyle Coordinator that I worked with was replaced with a new coordinator.
Recently that side room has become a storage room of sorts - scrunching the chairs and causing us to lose space to Thanksgiving decorations.
This past Monday morning...there was one lady who joined me for worship.
It wasn’t the one who shouts “Amen.”
It wasn’t the one who sings along.
It wasn’t the one who nods at key points of the sermon.
It was the one who falls asleep about 3 minutes in.
I will not lie. I started to think:
What’s the point?
Why be here?
It isn’t anything BIG.
It isn’t anything SIGNIFICANT.
This can’t be the work of God because it isn’t BIG and SIGNIFCANT enough!
You ever thought like that? Have you ever thought…
Why am I attending this INSIGNIFICANT church service? It’s not even Christmas Eve. It’s some random service in October.
Why am I telling my kids this INSIGNIFCANT Bible story? They don’t even look like they’re listening.
Why am I making this INSIGNIFICANT invite to worship? My friend couldn’t care less.
Why am I prepping for this INSIGNIFCANT Sunday School class? There’ll be, what, 2 kids here?
Why would I have my child baptized? It’s an INSIGNIFICANT splash of water. What could it possibly do!
Friends, we are buying into a LIE.
Work in God’s Kingdom needs to SEEM SIGNIFICANT or it will BE INSIGNIFICANT.
The lie suddenly becomes:
Every time I share the message of Jesus; it needs to be greeted with SHOUTS of joy or it was worthless…
Each worship service needs strobe lights and smoke machines or it’s not really work in God’s kingdom.
Each Bible passage on Facebooks need to go viral or it will be utterly worthless.
Each time I teach kids, I need about 30 of them, lined up – like soldiers – listening to my words like the kids from Sound of Music or I might as well quit trying.
Careful. You’re listening to The Lie.
And it’s most dangerous when it comes to personally connecting with God.
Because we think:
I need to go to climb some mountain, in some freezing Antarctic culture and find a Sherpa on the very summit. That’s SIGNIFICANT and that’s connecting with God.
I need to go to some forest, deep in the jungle, to find a TEMPLE OF DOOM and an ancient artifact that will solve God for me. That’s SIGNIFICANT. That’s the way to God.
I need to spend hours in a laboratory, dissecting, experimenting, and divulging in order to unlock the secret God particle. That would be SIGNIFICANT and that would be the way to Him.
I need to give thousands of dollars to some charity to get my name on one of their plaques to ensure that God might like me. That’s SIGNIFICANT and maybe then God would pay attention to me!
We envision these grandiose ideals on how to connect with God, when God has simply, clearly made himself absolutely accessible through something seemingly insignificant.
Friends, if this what you believe -
That’s God’s Kingdom only shows up in the SEEMINGLY SIGNIFICANT.
In the BIG Seed.
In the FLASHING LIGHTS seed.
In the ABSOLUTELY IMPRESSIVE seed…
You are in danger of missing it altogether.
III. The Unexpected Reality
Like many of the people at Jesus’ time…
They expected the Savior to be look like someone SIGNIFICANT.
Like a king coming from a beautiful palace.
Like some soldier with a giant sword.
Like a general with a myriad of soldiers behind him.
Like an activist enacting visibly massive political upheaval.
But that’s not what they saw in Jesus.
Instead of a beautiful palace, he came from a feeding trough in some dilapidated barn.
Instead of a giant sword, he swung a carpenter’s hammer.
Instead of a myriad of soldiers, he had 12 disciples – 4 fishermen, an accountant, a political activist, a betrayer and 5 guys whose jobs were so insignificant they aren’t even written down in Scripture.
Instead of massive visual political upheaval, thee enacted invisible personal, spiritual change.
Even in his death – He seemed insignificant!
He didn’t die fighting a dragon.
He wasn’t fending off some super villain.
He didn’t go in some epic explosion.
He hung on a cross.
Where many common criminals hung before.
Where many common criminals hung after.
Jesus’ LIFE seem insignificant, but there is no LIFE more eternally important.
Because with his death he removed all of your sins.
With his blood he removed all of your guilt.
With his resurrection he declared heaven to be yours!
It might look common.
It might seem insignificant.
It might seem like a mustard seed of a teaching.
But belief in Jesus leads to a mustard plant like growth into the Kingdom of God itself.
If Jesus’ LIFE seemed insignificant, but there is no life more eternally important…
Jesus WORK might seem insignificant, but there is no WORK more eternally important.
That insignificant looking church service, can reinvigorate and replenish your faith in the Savior.
That insignificant looking Bible story – can fill your kids with trust in their Savior.
That insignificant invite to worship, might be one of a series of calls from God to bring that person to His kingdom.
That insignificant looking Sunday School class, could strengthen the faith of a future SS teacher who will continue to multiply God’s kingdom long after your gone.
Those insignificant looking drops of water, wash away sin and bring you into God’s eternal kingdom.
That insignificant looking, off-key acapella worship service in that stuffy, back storage room with only one person in attendance…might strengthen that person’s faith just enough to bring them home to heaven.
Like an insignificant looking mustard seed, God’s kingdom grows into the most eternally significant.
IV. What Now?
1. Do the Seemingly Insignificant
Work on memorizing Scripture.
Sing “Jesus Loves Me” with your kids.
Bring your kids to worship – even when they don’t want to.
Bring yourself to worship – even when it’s not a celebration Sunday.
Tell a coworker about Jesus – even if it’s not some incredible doctrinal statement.
Do the seemingly insignificant work this week and you will be doing the eternal important work of God’s kingdom.
And it’s not just personal…
When you’re leaving today, look behind across the parking lot. There’s an incredible new ministry center out there with an incredible ability to Plant the Message of Jesus in the Hearts of North Raleigh.
To be fair – it looks SIGNIFICANT.
But the work surrounding it – hasn’t always been…
Phone calls on hold to subcontractors.
Emails typed to potential parents.
Fixing the little tiny door latch for the cabinet in the janitor’s closet.
On its own, the work seemed insignificant.
Keep doing the insignificant when that opens.
Spend an extra minute talking to a parent about their life.
Add a dollar to the offering plate.
Paint a wall in the Fellowship Hall.
Do the Seemingly Insignificant work of God’s kingdom because there is nothing of more eternal significance.
2. Remember the Eternal Significance
Segue with me.
To something that isn’t a parable.
Segue with me.
To something that is a glimpse into the future.
Segue with me.
To the reality of heaven itself – the ultimate goal of God’s kingdom.
After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:
“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”
Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?”
I answered, “Sir, you know.”
And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:9, 10, 13, 14)
Look at that multitude.
Look at those people.
It’s eternally significant.
If you look closely enough you might see…
There’s that person that you shared that seemingly insignificant Bible verse with.
There’s your neighbor that you shared a seemingly insignificant church invitation with.
There’s your child that you shared a seemingly insignificant 5-minute Bible story with.
You can't say for sure, so we must keep sharing God's Word. It's important!
The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed…
The work can look insignificant, but there is no work of more eternal significance.
Last week we started a new series called “The Kingdom of God is like…” It’s a series in which Jesus himself, the expert in the Kingdom of God, teaches us all about God’s kingdom through parables. A parable is a short earthly story that teaches about the Kingdom of God.
Last week’s parable taught there are many different reactions to the Gospel message. Some instantly reject it. Some quickly grow faith and quickly lose faith. Some have faith for a long time, but then worries and wealth choke out their faith. Some believe, grow, and reproduce – planting Gospel seeds in the hearts of others.
If you were listening last week, maybe you started thinking…
How do I make sure that every soil is like the good soil?
How do I ensure that everyone I tell about Jesus believes in him?
Afterall, Christianity has been around for over 2,000 years.
There have been a lot of smart Christians.
Surely, someone must have come up with some kind of identifiable, outlinable process to growing faith in someone’s heart with 100% accuracy!
It’s kind of like HelloFresh. Have any of you tried it? They send you recipes for a meal, all of the ingredients for the meal, and the exact amount of each ingredient for the meal. It’s broken down in such a simple, step by step process that even people like me (who previously were only really good at making Pop Tarts) able to cook Chicken Cordon Bleu w/ braised Asparagus.
And it’s edible.
Wouldn’t it be great if there was something like that for sharing Jesus?
Something with 100%, all the time, positive results.
Today we are looking at a second parable from Mark 4. It shares with us the secret to planting seed in the kingdom of God. 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. How to Grow a Seed
The parable is from Mark 4:26. That’s the same chapter we were in last time. That means Jesus told it to his disciples shortly after telling them about the 4 different types of ways that the seed would grow.
Perhaps they were wondering the same thing we wondered earlier: Jesus, how can we ensure that all the plants grow!?! Give us some kind of a Ten Step Process.
Jesus gives them the answer.
With another parable:
This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground.
Sound familiar? That’s almost the exact same thing as the previous parable.
Only instead of a farmer sowing seed, it’s just a man sowing seed.
And instead of focusing on the various result, it’s focusing on the process involved with achieving the desired result:
Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. (v.27)
Focus in on what the man is up to. He is not always sowing.
Sometimes he’s sleeping.
Sometimes he’s awake.
Sometimes he’s eating a hearty sower breakfast of eggs, bacon, sausage and a bowl of hot grits with a slice of butter melting from the top down.
Sometimes he’s reading his copy of Farmer’s Digest magazine.
Sometimes he’s watching HGTV.
Sometimes he’s on Facebook marketplace looking for a good deal on a pair of coveralls.
To be fair, in the midst of this – he takes time to plant, time to water, time to weed, time to add fertilizer.
He absolutely tends to the plants.
But…for a long time, nothing seems to be growing!
Nothing seems to be happening.
It’s just a pile of dirt with a stick and the seed packet over the top of it – so he doesn’t forget where he planted.
After many days.
After many nights.
There is a plant.
And when he’s excitedly talking to his spouse that night he tells her:
It grew! And I don’t know how.
I don’t know if it was the watering.
Or the fertilizer.
Or playing my Weird Al hitlist on Pandora for it.
I don’t know exactly what happened to make it grow, but…it grew.
God made it grow.
Here’s the first key truth of the parable:
The secret to faith growing is that there’s no secret!
There’s no special phrase to say.
No special Kool Aid to drink.
No special pressure point you need to push to make faith grow.
Faith grows from using God’s Word.
It’s no secret.
It’s simple, everyday use of God’s Word.
That’s really important to remember.
Because sometimes, we get the sense that we need to concoct the perfect scenario to grow faith in someone’s heart.
The coffee needs to be bold.
The signage needs to be exquisite.
The ushers need to be on point.
The band needs to be well rehearsed.
The sermon needs to be energetic.
And the call to faith afterwards needs to be dramatic and it needs to happen in about 3 minutes or less -- or faith will fade.
And we should probably add a smoke machine and fireworks just to help their faith grow.
Don’t get me wrong. Those things are fine. (Some of those things are fine) They might even be good. We want to do our best for God.
But what those things don’t create faith.
God’s Word creates faith.
Because remember – God’s Word is the seed.
The seed contains all the power within it to grow!
When it didn’t grow in last week’s parable, the problem was never the seed. It was the soil.
When faith doesn’t grow in someone’s heart, the problem isn’t God’s Word – it’s the heart.
Therefore - the secret to the growing faith is faithful use of God’s Word.
It’s reading a passage from the Bible to your kids.
It’s typing a few words from the sermon on Facebook.
It’s telling a friend that Jesus is their Savior.
It’s texting your cousin a message from the Psalms.
It’s inviting your friend to join us for worship for Pentecost 21.
The mysterious secret to growing faith is found in the common, everyday use of God’s Word.
And while that might seem common…
It is far from it.
Because constant reminder of God’s forgiveness melts the disgusting guilt of sin away.
The simple melody of Jesus Loves Me may chase away the devil himself.
The ums and the ahs of a mediocre sermon – becomes the powerful, booming, authoritative voice of God himself declaring YOU. To. Be. His Child.
Keep planting God’s word in common, everyday ways and God’s Word will work to grow faith.
II. The Sprout Timeline
Next question: How long you need to do it?
I remember Miracle Gro. Do any of you? Its claim was that you toss one little thing of Miracle Grow into your watering can and it would immediately and efficiently cause your plants to grow. All it took was one application and soon you would be on your way to a prize-winning pumpkin!’
How long does it take to grow faith? Check out verse 27 again: Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. (v.27)
Notice there’s no time frame on how long he cares for the seed.
37 some odd years trying to get something to grow in that soil?
It’s indefinite, because the answer is indefinite.
Faith growing might take a day.
37 some odd years.
I’ll just go ahead and say I’ve witnessed this firsthand.
There have been people like Rebecca. We met. I got them into Bible Basics. I shared the Gospel. It took 1, maybe 2 plantings and faith grew.
Then, there are people like Eliza. We met. I, and the PL teachers, spent a year sharing Jesus with their kids. Then, the kids helped share Jesus with the parents. Then, there was another year of it. Then, a third year of it. Then a 4th year of it. Then, sometime around year 5 of it, I was able to get her into Bible Basics – Share faith, get her to church, wait another couple of months of that happening until finally: A plant of faith.
Do you understand the take home? It’s easy to get discouraged. Easy to think that faith is never going to grow. Easy to doubt that your attempts at sharing Jesus with your kid, your friend, your spouse will never work.
But the truth is:
The Timeline of faith growing is indefinite.
It’s different for different people.
You don’t stop sharing God’s Word with your spouse because I’ve been doing it for so long. It probably won’t work.
You don’t stop inviting your friend, because I’ve been doing it for so long...it probably won’t work.
You don’t stop telling your coworker about Jesus because I’ve been done that twice. If it hasn’t worked now, it won’t work ever.
If the person you want to share Jesus with is still alive, there’s still a chance for God’s Word to work.
If you think you should stop because they’ve kept telling you no, perhaps you’ve focusing too much on their reaction AND not enough on the powerful seed you have in your hand.
God’s powerful seed.
Share God’s Word.
III. The Rate of Faith Growth
One more thought.
Sometimes when someone comes to faith…
Sometimes when they confess their faith on a New Member Sunday…
I get super excited!
I think they are going to get so involved.
They’ll be here every weekend.
They’ll be fantastic givers.
They’ll be itching at every chance to get into God’s Word and do Bible Study.
That doesn’t happen.
And when that doesn’t happen, the temptation can be to say:
Fine then! Get out of this church.
Fine then! I’m taking your photo off the photo wall.
Fine then! Don’t expect me to keep after you; you’re on your own now!
But here’s the deal. Just as initial faith-growth is varied; so is maturing faith-growth. What I mean is that you the seed doesn’t get put into the ground and the next day you have an ear of corn stick straight out of the dirt. Nor do you get an apple popping out of an apple tree when it’s simply a twig on the ground.
There’s an order to growth. Check out verses 28-29:
All by itself the soil produces grain – first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.
Again - the length of that growth can vary.
Oftentimes, it’s an issue with the soil.
It’s an issue with someone not getting into God’s Word.
But…when we are talking about other people -- Your job? It isn’t saying: “This thing isn’t growing as fast as I want. I’ll get out my garden hoe and dig it out of the ground.”
Your job is simply to tend to the plant with God’s Word.
It’s why you baptize your child, but then, you keep telling your kid about Jesus.
It’s why you bring your spouse to church once, but then you ask them to come again.
It’s why you get excited about the new believer getting connected to God's Word, but then you keep them connected to God’s Word.
But the endgame is the harvest.
It’s the end game of the apple lover. They plant the apple tree in order to taste that delicious bite of the first apple.
It’s the end game of the carrot lover. They plant the carrot plant in order to take a crunchy bite of that first carrot.
It’s the end game of the Brussels sprout lover. They plant the Brussels sprout bush in order to torture their children. No…because they want Brussels sprouts.
And that’s why God planted faith in you, he wants you to join him in heaven.
It’s why God grows faith through His Word he wants many in the harvest of heaven.
It’s why you will share your faith with those that you do, because you want them to share in the harvest of heaven.
Keep that in mind.
That’s the end game.
The Harvest of heaven. Amen.
Over the past couple of weeks, we have heard some amazing stories. About the Jordan River splitting in half, the walls of Jericho tumbling down, God’s grace in keeping the prostitute Rahab safe, his wrath against the greedy Achan and his incredible power that extended the daylight for 24 extra hours!
Today’s sermon is a bit different. Because we are getting to the part of Joshua that isn’t so jammed packed with action. The literature switches from narrative to a legal listing; from storytelling to atlas. It’s one of those parts of the Bible that might not seem like it’s got a lot to do with you.
You’d be wrong.
Today we’re going to take our first of two looks at the non-narrative parts of Joshua. This is from Joshua 13-21. Our goal is to discover a couple of different ways these listings are a blessing for 21st century Raleighians.
Before we do that, let’s pray: Strengthen us this morning by the truth, O God. 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 Temptation to Grow Tired
Chapter 13 starts right after Israel has finished conquering a vast majority of the land. Joshua 13:1. When Joshua had grown old and was well along in years, the LORD said to him, “You are now very old…”
Notice that there seems to be a repetitive theme. The Bible calls Joshua “old” and then, it rephrases it so that we don’t get confused, “well along in years.” Finally, the LORD himself approaches Joshua and the very first thing he says to him is, “You are…very old!”
Sheesh, God. Thanks a lot.
I doubt Joshua needed the reminder. The white hairs, the creaky knees and the wrinkles probably told him enough. In fact, if you jump forward in the book – Caleb, Joshua’s contemporary, is identified as 85 years old. Joshua, probably a bit older, might be around 90.
That means – things were not as easy as they used to be.
Each morning he would stand and straighten his back very slowly.
He would grab his pair of glasses and squint in order to read the 14-point font of Moses’ OT Writings.
Soldiers would pretend not to notice his inability to remember any of their names. Marty? Abimelech?
Joshua was no spring chicken.
So, what does God want?
Is this the talk where he tells him to slow things down?
Is this the talk where he told Joshua he probably shouldn’t drive anymore?
Is this the talk where he told Joshua about the new retirement village they had set up in the confines of Ai?
Joshua…there are still large areas of land to be taken over. (v.1b)
I still have plans for you.
I still have work for you.
You are not too old to serve me.
That’s a key truth I want to focus on for a moment. You are never too old to serve God.
I was sitting down next to a friend for coffee the other day. And in the midst of our conversation, the man began to tell me about his children. How he had fallen away from church and wasn’t a believer anymore.
And then…he sighed: But...what am I going to do? I’m old.
Is that really how it works?
Is Jesus just for young kids?
Is Jesus not for adults?
Do you get to a point where you’re so old that even God can’t use you?
Look at these Scriptures:
Matthew 28 says, “Go and make disciples of all nations.”
Galatians 5 says, “Serve one another in love.”
Matthew 5, “Let your light shine.”
Notice Scripture does not say, “Go and make disciples – unless you have arthritis.”
It doesn’t say, “Serve one another in love…unless you are over 73. Then, serve in grouchiness.”
It doesn’t say, “Let your light shine…unless you live in a retirement community.”
There are no qualifiers.
These commands are all inclusive.
These commands are for you – no matter how old you are.
Because you are never too old to serve God!
Joshua was 90 years old and God still called on him to lead the Israelite army throughout the rest of Canaan!
But Joshua wasn’t alone.
Moses was 80 years old when God used him to get Israel out of Egypt.
Daniel was 87 when he was thrown into the lion’s den for confessing faith in Jesus.
Sarah was 99 when she gave birth to Isaac – forefather of Jesus.
Noah was 600 when God used him to build an ark and save humanity!
How old are you?
How will God use?
Don’t listen to the devil:
You are never too old to serve God.
II. The Temptation to Give Up
That’s what God wanted Joshua to do. Listen to his command: There are still very large areas of land to be taken over…be sure to allocate this land to Israel for an inheritance, as I have instructed you. (v.1b, 6) Because up to this point Israel hasn’t conquered everything. They only possess about 2/3 of the Promised Land. They had won many battles and driven out many armies, but they still needed to win victories up in the North kingdom and they still needed to drive out armies in the southwest.
The temptation might be to call it good.
The temptation might be to say close enough.
The temptation might be to grab a PBR and relax.
God doesn’t want them to quit.
God wants them to finish it.
And with good reason.
My initial favorite sports teams were based in Minnesota. Did you know this? I was 2 when I moved there from Baton Rouge, LA and I was 4 when I watched my first baseball and football games. The Twins and the Vikings. Then, in first grade I moved to Wisconsin. And in week one of the NFL season I was one of the only kids wearing Viking purple – while everyone else wore green and gold.
And there was polite joking.
And there was polite ribbing.
And…there was the time in fourth grade when Brett Favre led the Packers deep into the playoffs – and the Vikings were not so deep in the playoffs – that I finally switched allegiances.
People influence you. In sports teams, favorite restaurants, binge worthy TV shows and religion.
This is one of the main reasons for God driving out the Canaanites. He doesn’t want the Canaanites’ idol worship to influence the Israelites God worship. He doesn’t want the Canaanite unbelievers to lead Israelite believers to unbelief…
And Joshua gets it. He sends out each tribe into its particular region of the Promised Land in order to drive out all the nations. That’s exactly what chapters 11-19 entail. Numbers, places and results of their victories. But…hidden in the midst of these victories – in the midst of this long historical commentary on how they followed through on God’s commands – are a few verses which show that…they didn’t.
13:13 The Israelites did not drive out the people of Geshur and Maacah so they continue to live among Israel to this day.
15:53 Judah could not dislodge the Jebusites.
16:10 They did not dislodge the Canaanites in Gezer.
17:11-12 They were not able to occupy Beth Shan, Ibleam, Dor, Endor, Taanach and Megiddo...for the Canaanites lived in their region.
19:47 But the Danites had difficulty taking possession of their territory…so they moved up to Leshem.
Perhaps this seems like no big deal. Perhaps this seems like “at least they tried hard.”
Perhaps you can understand them being tired and saying – “Good enough. We don’t bother you and you don’t bother us.”
And everything seems fine.
Jump forward with me:
After Joshua died…another generation grew up who neither knew the LORD nor what he had done for Israel. Then, the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD…they followed and worshiped various gods of the people around them. So…the hand of the LORD was against them…and he sold them into the hand of their enemies all around them. (Judges 2:8-13)
Do you see the problem?
They didn’t listen to God.
They didn’t drive out the Canaanites.
And the Canaanites led them to worshipping false gods.
Just. Like. God. Said.
God has not asked us to conquer any kind of land or people in any kind of way. But God does tell us to fight against sin and drive it out of our lives – completely!
However – I wonder if sometimes we don’t do the same thing Israel does. Go about 90% of the way and call it good. I don’t commit adultery. Especially when it comes to something I like to call Peripheral Sins.
What’s a Peripheral Sin? Peripheral vision describes the vision to the right and the left of what you are focusing on. For example, if you look straight at the cross right now and I stand over here --- peripheral vision is me. Maybe you can tell that I’m there, but I’m not clear. I’m fuzzy. (Try and guess how many fingers I am holding up. Not easy)
Peripheral sins are the sins that we don’t focus on. Sins that we refuse to focus on. Sins that we can maybe kind of see in our life – but they aren’t big and clear like murder OR cheating on your wife so…we just kind of let those be.
For example – three common Peripheral Sins:
Granted, if you’ve struggled with lust, there may have been a moment when this wasn’t in the peripheral. And you fought pornography. And you stopped seeing that person who was threatening your marriage.
But at some point, the devil loves to get us to stop the fight.
I’m not looking at porn anymore; so, I’ll just look around at the gym. That should be ok.
I’m not planning on sleeping with that guy at work; I’m just flirting. My husband would be cool with it.
This right here? It’s just the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. I only read it for the articles…on sports.
Lust is not a small thing. It’s always a big thing. Drive it out.
(2) Sinful Anger.
Because for whatever the reason, anger is one of those sins that people say, “Well everyone gets angry.” (Which is true) and “Anger isn’t necessarily a sin.” (also, true) and “Anyways…it’s probably not a big deal the way I showed my anger there.” (Which is a bald-faced lie.)
Humans aren’t God.
Humans are sinful.
Human anger – even ‘righteous sounding anger’ will be tainted by sin.
And oftentimes is acted out sinfully.
Anger cannot be ignored.
It kills relationships at home.
It kills relationships at work.
It kills relationships at church.
It kills your relationship with God.
Anger is not a small thing. It’s a big thing. Drive it out.
After recent events in Virginia, this deserves to be revisited. Because I think the common sentiment is: I’m not a member of the KKK. I’m not a Neo-Nazi. I’m good. Stop telling me I’m racist.
But Jesus calls us to look deeper.
Jesus tells us sin affect us.
Jesus tells us that sinful selfishness easily affects the way that we think and act.
And when we see the problems – even small problems – drive them out.
If I befriend that guy who looks like me, but don’t even try to befriend that guy because…he doesn’t. There’s a problem. Drive the racism out.
If I make a joke here and a comment there, and say…but “it’s just a funny stereotype that’s all.” There’s a problem. Drive the racism out.
If I dismiss the struggles of my friend (who looks different) because I never had to deal with those kinds of struggles (since I look different) and it would make me uncomfortable to consider that people who do look like me might be part of the reason this friend who doesn’t look like you is struggling. There’s a problem. Drive the racism out.
In fact, drive all of these peripheral sins out. Because the reality is that they are sin. And sin destroys.
Lust destroys marriage.
Anger destroys churches.
Racism destroys society.
Drive it out before the destruction takes place!
III. God Finishes What He Started
Here’s the good news for Israel. In spite of their failure to completely drive out their enemies, God still blessed Israel. He gave them the Promised Land. He kept that in their possession. He made sure that Israelites were in that land when he finally sent the Savior from there.
God finished what he started.
In Bethlehem, Jesus was born.
In Nazareth, Jesus grew up.
In Cana, he turned water into wine.
At the Jordan, he revealed himself as Lord.
In Jericho, he healed a blind man.
Just outside Jerusalem he died…and just outside Jerusalem he rose from the dead.
God finished what he started.
And he was complete about it! Scripture says, “The blood of Jesus purifies us from all sin.”
Please note the all. It doesn’t say “some.” It doesn’t say “a few.” It doesn’t say, “Just the obvious big ones.”
His blood purifies you from peripheral lust.
His blood purifies you from seeping anger.
His blood purifies you from that hidden racism.
Jesus died and his blood completely purifies you from all sin.
It’s like a water purification system. If you put that on your faucet, the water goes through the first filter and the big sediment it blocked. Then, it goes through the secondary system and the little sediment it blocked. Finally, it goes through a laser purification process and even the hidden particles are destroyed.
Jesus purifies us from all sin.
And that empowers us to drive out all sin.
That’s exactly what God tells Joshua. Right after he tells Joshua about all of the nations that he still needs to drive out – God says this in verse 6: I myself will drive out the nations. He was still fighting with them. Even if they didn’t see gigantic miracles like the river splitting in half or the walls tumbling down or the sun sitting in the sky for an extra 24 hours – God was still with them and would not withdraw his support.
And God is still with you.
He’s not like some big athletic sponsorship that withdraws their sponsorship because the athlete tweets something they don’t agree with or posts a picture of something that they shouldn’t.
In spite of our sins – for the sake of Jesus – God will not withdraw his support. He is in your corner.
When you are old.
When you are young.
Whether you’re fighting lust, holding back anger or working against subtle racism, God is in your corner.
God has your back.
On the wall in my office is my Seminary diploma. It is a certification that I have been schooled in Theology. I studied for 8 years. 4 in college and 4 more at Seminary. I studied Hermeneutics. I studied Homiletics. I studied Isagogics, Exegesis, and a host of other disciplines that I barely remember how to pronounce anymore. However you get it, this type of certification verifies that you might have a semblance of an idea of what you’re talking about as you preach at a church.
You wanna know something amazing? Jesus didn’t have one.
Yet there he sat as he had so many time before, in the temple courts preaching and teaching. There were crowds of people at his feet and they were hanging on his every word.
This was a problem for the Pharisees, the one who had earned the right to teach in the temple. They had gone to school. They had paid their dues. They were official members of this teaching groups.
Not Jesus. He was not a card carrying member of the Pharisees. He didn’t work his way up in the Sanhedrin. He didn’t graduate from local Hebrew school with a special preaching license. These men had rightfully earned that respect. They had paid their dues and they wore authentic religious teacher garb.
They stormed over to Jesus and the infuriated teaches snarled at him, “What authority do you have to do such things?” (21:23) “What gives you the right?”
But Jesus didn’t bite. Instead, he told them a story.
A man owned vineyard (Jesus really liked parables about vineyards). Instead of going to the market and looking for workers, he recognized that he had two very capable workers in his own household. His Sons.
He found the first son. “Son, go and work today in the vineyard.” (v.28)
“I will not!” (v.29) came the sassy reply.
Maybe he was getting close to conquering the final level of Angry Birds on his cell phone. Maybe he was watching a funny video on YouTube. May he just wanted to get some sleep under the tree, like any self-respecting teenage boy.
But later he thought better of it. Maybe he felt sorry that he had disrespected his dad or maybe he felt a wave of responsibility rush over him. He changed his mind and went. (v.29)
Meanwhile dad approached his other son.
“I will sir!” And one can’t help but see the pride in this respectful answer. “Yes, Dad. You are the greatest. I will come like always. I will be there. I’ll work hard for you. I’ll do the good work just like a good son should because I’m a good son.”
But the ‘good son’ took a good time in coming to work. In fact, he did not go. (v.30)
And maybe he got distracted. Maybe he fell asleep. Maybe a friend texted him that a bunch of them were headed to the local ice cream shop and the girl that he had a crush on would be there. I don’t know.
What we do know. One son said he wouldn’t do the work, but did. The other sons said he would do the work, but didn’t.
Then, the riddle: “Which of the two did what his father wanted?” (v.31)
Did you come to the same conclusion as the Pharisees? “The first,” they answered, “the one who actually did the work that the Father had asked.” They were right. It’s no shocker.
But what Jesus said next was shocking, “I tell you the truth,” he told the Pharisees, “the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to show you the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.” (v.32)
Do you get it? Do you see what Jesus is saying with the parable? Do you see the tragedy in the answer of these teachers?
Jesus was using this parable like a mirror. He was revealing to the Pharisees how God saw them. It wasn’t how they saw themselves (as even better versions of the first son.) They, these “followers of God,” “holy people,” “descendants of Abraham,” and “Experts on what God has to say,” were the second son.
Consider this: God the Father called them. In Scripture, he had told them to watch for a Messiah. He gave them clues as to who the Messiah would be: Born in Bethlehem, born of a virgin, causing the lame to walk, the blind to see, the deaf to hear, the sick to be well, and the dead to rise! They were ready for such a Messiah. They were ready to do the work of their Father and follow Him.
But when they saw this Messiah, when they saw a regular looking carpenter who spoke softly and lovingly, they didn’t listen. The Prostitutes did. The Tax Collectors did. The “scum of the earth did.” But not the ones who had pledged to follow God! They didn’t believe the Scriptures. They didn’t believe John the Baptist. They didn’t believe the miracles. They didn’t believe the testimony of God the Father himself.
They said, “We’ll listen to you Heavenly Father,” but then, “they didn’t do what he said.” They didn’t do what his work was.
What was that work? John 6:29 -- Jesus said, “The work of God is this: to believe in the One he sent.”
That’s what they didn’t do. And they were forfeiting their place in heaven because of it.
WHAT KIND OF CHILD ARE YOU?
Which son are you in the parable? Is this whole Christianity thing fairly new to you? Are you just getting your feet wet in the church? Maybe you’ve spent your life addicted to drugs, alcohol, or pornography. Maybe you’ve been too busy chasing worldly wealthy and careers that you just didn’t have time to listen to God. Maybe you’ve finally rethought life and you are ready to do the work of the Lord (But you can’t shake the feeling that you are unworthy to do such a thing.)
Or maybe you’re more like the second son. Maybe you’ve been a ‘follower of Jesus’ your whole life. Maybe you’ve been in church, you know all the books of the Bible, you can say the Lord’s Prayer in less than 15 seconds, and your seat at church is specifically cushioned to the exact way you sit there each week.
But you don’t really believe this stuff. You find yourself doubting as you read more and more on the internet. The world has affected you. This Jesus’ teachings don’t line up with what the world says he should teach. You’ve gotten distracted by your job. You couldn’t care less what He has to say in His Word. You are more worried about you and what you do, than what God has called you to do.
Either of these Sons sound familiar?
Did you tell God “no,” but have changed your mind and are now ready to say, “Yes?”
Did you tell God, “yes,” but have changed your mind and are now telling him, “No?”
Which son are you?
The truth is that it is less important which son you are or which son you have been. What matters is what son you will be!
Because here it is! Whether it’s for the first time, the 23rd time or the 1 thousandth time in your life: REPENT OF YOUR SINS! BELIEVE IN JESUS. BELIEVE IN THE ONE HE SENT.
When you do put your faith in Him, listen to will say of you what he said to the tax collectors and prostitutes. You “are entering the kingdom of God…”
It’s what the woman caught in adultery heard. Angry men surrounded her ready to give her the very punishment that an angry God had described for her sin. A sin she could not deny. A shame that lowered her tear stained eyes.
But when God himself approached, he smiled. “I do not condemn you.” She heard the call of her Father this time. She jumped to her feet in joy. She would devote herself to her Savior!
It’s what Zacchaeus heard. He was hated by the whole town. His greed and deception had angered God and others.
But when God himself looked at him up in the tree – that was not the voice of an enemy, but a friend. “I’m coming to your house today.” (Luke 19:5) And Zacchaeus heard the call from his Father again. He believe and scurried down that tree faster than he would’ve scurried out of a house he had just cheated out of their taxes.
God will say the same to you. You who have never followed Jesus. You who followed, but have lost your way. You who have gotten distracted. You who have chosen the world. You who have backed down from this difficult work.
God does NOT approach you in anger today. Instead, he lovingly, kindly, gently calls you, “Repent. Believe in me. Believe in the One God has sent!”
Because the One God sent lived perfectly for you. The One God sent died innocently for you. The One God sent rose triumphantly for you. That “whoever believes in Him and is baptized will be saved!” (Mk. 16:15)
So. Get up and do God’s Work! Follow Jesus.
Challenge time again. Here are some practical ways to follow Jesus this week!
1) If you have never been baptized, then be baptized. In Baptism, God makes you his own. He washes away your sins. He makes you his child! He promises that he will no longer refer to you as “HIS ENEMY” but as “HIS OWN.” Speak to your pastor about this today!
2) Come back next week. If you come every other week to hear from Jesus, come every week. If you come every week, join Bible class. If you go to Bible class, start up devotion. Whatever you do, devote yourself more fully to God this week. Do God’s Work and let God work to grow your faith.
3) Share God’s Work. Once you’ve studied up on what God did for you, tell others! Tell your family. Tell your friends. Invite them to church. Invite them to Reformation. Share the sermon you’ll get from the email group with three friends!
Brothers this is what the children of God do. They do God’s Work. They believe in Jesus. They grow in Jesus. They share Jesus.
As Jesus told this parable, those Pharisees were being called to do God’s Work one more time. Sadly, many rejected this call. They got lazy. They got distracted. They chose to do as they pleased.
May that not be you. Listen to your Father’s gentle call. Listen to his voice calling you to faith.
Repent. Believe in Jesus. Believe in the One God sent.
“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard. 3 “About the third hour he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4 He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ 5 So they went.
He went out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour and did the same thing. 6 About the eleventh hour he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’ 7 “ ‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered. “He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’
When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’
The workers who were hired about the eleventh hour came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 ‘These men who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’
But he answered one of them, ‘Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’
So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
The disciples were confused.
Not that long ago some parents had brought their young children to Jesus. The disciples immediately tried to send them away. How could these young ones follow Jesus? He didn’t have time for them. They’ll just play around and get in the way without anything of merit to contribute.
Jesus told them that “the kingdom of heaven belonged to such as these.” (Mt. 19:14)
“Ok, Jesus wants them in the kingdom, even though they have nothing to contribute, but a bit of drool.”
Then, a rich, young man had approached. An entrepreneur. He had the know how, the drive, and the economic resources to really boost this whole discipleship movement.
But Jesus put up such a high standard: keep all the commandments and then sell everything and follow their movement that the man ended up walking away dejectedly.
What was going on? Why was Jesus extending grace to those without merit, but turning away those with much merit!?!
The disciples were confused. So. Jesus told this parable
“A landowner…went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard.” Most likely he headed to the marketplace where workers would go to be hired. It’s the old fashioned equivalent of heading to Lowe’s or Home Depot where you will find workers for hire waiting outside near the carts.
He found some workers and He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard. (v.2) A denarius was a common day’s wage. Eleven hours of work for about a hundred dollars. Fair enough. They’ll start work at 7am and go until 6pm.
After going back and setting them up with the work they had to do, he went back to the market to get more workers. In fact, he goes back four separate times. Once at 9am, once at noon, and once at three. Then he comes back at 5pm when there’s only 1 hour left. He finds a few guys who haven’t done any work all day. They are just lounging around – perhaps they are even finishing up a PBR—giving up on any work for that day.
Somehow the Vineyard owner persuades them. They go to work in the vineyard…maybe thinking, “I’ll make enough money for another beer.”
Then, it’s quitting time. He calls them all to get paid. First in line are the guys who came at 5pm.
Imagine their surprise when he reaches into his pouch and pulls out one shiny new denarius for each worker. $100 for an hour of work? Not bad.
But as excited as those workers were, imagine the excitement that those who had been working all day felt. They’d been there 11 hours. If these guys got $100 for one hour, then they’d get $100 x 11, $1100 dollars.
Think of what you could buy with that! It’s a nice down payment on a car. A whole month’s worth of rent. 275 bags of Doritos! Suddenly, the long hard day of work in the hot sun of the vineyard field was well worth it.
Picture what happens next. The boss calls them forward. They are trying to withhold their excitement as they step up to the front. They hold out their hands…maybe even close their eyes just to be a bit more surprised. The boss places his payment into their hands. They open their eyes.
Yep. The exact same amount that the guys who only worked for an hour got.
Jesus says, “When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner.”
That’s not fair! We worked all day. What an unfair boss you are. Don’t you appreciate a hard worker? I’m reporting you to the Better Business Bureau of Jerusalem for unfair labor conditions!!! We have merited so much more.
The business owner doesn’t blink. ”Excuse me? Am I being unfair? Didn’t we make a deal? Weren’t you willing to work for a fair wages of a denarius? Didn’t I give you just that? I gave them a day’s wage, yes. But what is it to you? You didn’t lose any money. You got paid exactly what I said you would. I didn’t have to hire you and give you anything! Be thankful for what I am giving you, take your money, and go.”
Now Jesus doesn’t tell us this story so that we can put it to the test of our justice system and see if there needs to be a Labor Union set up for Vineyard workers in order to prevent the exploitation of others.
It’s a parable. There’s a spiritual meaning behind it. Jesus is warning us to watch out for entitlement!
Entitlement is a part of our society today. Entitlement means “This is what I’m entitled to. It’s what I’ve earned.” A coworker gets a raise and we better get the same raise. Someone gets off of work an hour early; we better get that same perk. If someone gets paid $15 an hour for a job that requires a college level education, I should get paid $15 for a job that doesn’t require a college level education?
It even happens with kids. They get upset if they don’t get a birthday party with a pony, a clown, and $500 in gifts because “My friend got that and so should I!”
Be wary that our culture of entitlement. It doesn’t take over your views on spiritual matters. Watch out for spiritual entitlement. It’s dangerous and it leads you to feel like God owes you.
Be careful. This entitlement comes in three areas:
· TIME. I’m entitled to more blessings from God because I’ve spent more time a Christian. I’ve logged in more hours at Gethsemane. I’m one of the stable members of Adult Bible class. I sat through even the boring parts!
· WORK. God has got to be more pleased with me than your average church goer because of all the good things I’ve done. I’ve been a part of many maintenance projects at church, I’ve been on the Council, the altar guild, the cookie makers, the lawn mowing team, the ushers, the nursery, the Sunday School teachers...I even have picked up litter in the parking lot, so I’m basically the WELS version of Greenpeace.
· MONEY. God has to be impressed with all the money I’ve given...10% of my paycheck always has gone to church. In fact, there are a few years I’ve given 10.1% by accident…but I didn’t complain. It makes me a little better than those who don’t…I know. God’s got a special place in heaven for me. I should get a plaque on this church’s wall.
Hmmm…? Does that sound familiar at all?
Then, in spite of our feeling of being entitled to specific things: God comes out in his Word and says this to all people, “Whoever believes in me will not perish but have eternal life.” (Jn. 3:16) He says, “All have sinned…and all are justified freely by God’s grace in Jesus.” (Romans 3:23) He says, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.” (Mk. 16:15)
No time requirements. No money amounts. No work awards. There’s no difference – God gives the same promise to all.
That’s when entitlement attitude really starts to kick in:
Really God? That guy? He hasn’t done anything. He’s barely been at church. He’s not a part of any service group. I’ve never seen him put a dime in the offering basket! And you’re offering him the same promise of love and forgiveness? I even see Pastor spending extra time talking to him after church? What did he do to deserve that? And why are we having a New Member Sunday? Shouldn’t we be having a “Long Time Member" Sunday?
That’s unfair God! You should give him as he deserves. You should give me as I deserve.
Really? You want God to be fair. You want God to “give you what you deserve.”
Romans 6:23 “The wages of sin is death.” You ever sinned? If so, what do you deserve?
I’m reminded of that time in a college English class when I approached the English Professor and asked him for a better grade on my test. I had a B and I thought I deserve an A!
Then, he said, “Oh, you wanted me to give you what you deserved? I had thrown out a few questions and graded on a curve, but I guess I could put those questions which you got wrong back into the test and drop the curve. Would you be happy with a C-?”
Trust me on this. In Spiritual matters, you don’t want what you deserve. Because what you, I, we deserve is hell.
So let’s go back to God’s promises. In spite of your sin he says, ‘’You who believe in Jesus as their Savior, will not perish, but have eternal life.” "You who have sinned…are justified freely by God’s grace.” You who “believe and are baptized will be saved.”
Think about what God is offering you. Heaven. A place you can’t get into unless you are perfect! Yet God offers it to you. Not because you earned it, but as a gift. Romans 6:23 continues, “The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus.”
And this gift is more than just heaven. It is the forgiveness for all of your sins. Peace with God. A new life on this earth serving God. An eternal life in the pain free, sin free, glorious streets of heaven!
That’s a pretty fair deal, isn’t it? We deserve hell, but we get heaven. All for believing his promise!
Then, instead of grumbling when others receive this message, why not rejoice!?!
If someone puts a picture of something they are happy about online, how do people react? A cute puppy picture? LIKE! A new outfit! COMMENT: That looks fantastic! “You just had a baby? I’ll SHARE it with my friends.”
Why not do the same thing with new believers? Why not celebrate? Celebrate when they are but a child OR celebrate when they are much older. Have a party! Give a bunch of high fives! Pray countless prayers of thanks AND sing the hymns in worship with a whole new vigor.
And understand this, it isn’t a celebration of THEM. It’s not a celebration of YOU. It’s a celebration of GOD!
So…here’s your challenge this week:
1) Read Romans 3. The first part of the chapter will remind you of what you really deserve, while the second part of the chapter will fill your heart with the amazing nature of God’s love! Read it and be thankful for the gifts you have been given.
2) Share the Message of Jesus with someone who doesn’t look like he deserves it. Specifically reach out to someone with a tattoo OR at a bar. I’m gonna have my business cards available after church. Why not just grab a few, have them on hand, and be ready to say, “Hey, I wanted to invite you to our church on Sunday! I want you to learn about grace.”
3) Meet and talk with newer members. This is something to put into practice right after worship. Find someone you haven’t talked to before. Find someone who looks new to you. Introduce yourself. If you know everyone’s name already, then find someone that you don’t know much about. Show that you care about them. Show that you are thankful they are here. Show that you happy to marvel at God’s grace together with them. Tell them, “It’s a joy to have you here!”
At the beginning, we mentioned how the disciples were confused by Jesus, but it’s my hope that today’s parable hasn’t left you confused at all. Because, it’s clear. God doesn’t base the reward of his forgiveness on our merits. God bases it on his grace!
Praise God it is so. Amen.
18 Servants, in reverent fear of God, submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. 19 For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. 20 But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.21 To this you were called because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. 22 “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.”
23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 24 “He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross,so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 25 For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Peter 2:18-25)
"How's work treating ya?"
I wonder what the percentage of people in America respond with the answer: “Fantastic!. 15, 10% Maybe less….and even then not all the time.
Because that's not how we normally feel about work, is it? We call it the "daily grind," "the squirrel cage," or the "treadmill." None of which are all that flattering. We complain about our bosses. We complain about long hours. We complain about bad benefits and low pay. We TGIF (Thank God it's Friday) and CTGIM (Complaining To God It's Monday).
Today we're going to talk about work. Whether you work for others, work for yourself, or are retired and work at home for fun, it's my prayer that this morning as we discuss People of God: At Work that you are reinvigorated to do your work and do it with joy!
I. How God Wants us to Work
Take a look at what 1 Peter 2 says about work. In verse 18, it says, "Servants, submit to your masters with all respect.”
When should you be a good employee? The first answer is pretty logical. We can get to it without even looking at Scripture, we can come to our first answer: When your boss is good!
Fortune 500 Magazine ranked "Google" as the top company to work for in 2014. Some of the perks: massages to help your mind energize, sleep pods to help your mind rest, 20% of your time each week devoted to pursuing your own dreams and ideas! Encouraging entrepeneurialship! It would be easy to work hard for Google. Easy to work hard for any good boss.
But what if your boss isn't so good? What if your boss is bad? What then? Surely God doesn’t expect us to work hard for those guys?
Read verse 18 again, "Servants, submit to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the unjust."
In other words, God wants you to work just as hard for the unjust as for the good boss.
Now there are a lot of different types of bad boss. There’s the Michael Scott type – who gets distracted easily and is really quite lazy. There’s the Ebenezer Scrooge type – who is fairly rude and makes you work at ½ rate for Christmas. There’s the Mr. Burns type – who is filled with greed and only wants more money at the expense of his employees.
If you have a boss who exhibits any of these TV character-like qualities, God wants you to submit to them. It doesn’t say “Substitute their real name with a demeaning nickname.” Nor does it say “Sub-standardize your skills so you don’t have to work as hard,” nor “submerse your pockets with a few free pens in order to earn your pay back” nor “submit to an afternoon of playing games on the computer, because he’s not looking!”
God’s Word simply says, “Submit. Work hard. Respect. Whether your boss is good or bad.”
Here’s the truth—anyone can happily serve a good boss. Even unbelievers! But it is extremely hard to serve an unjust and unfair boss! And that is precisely why God calls you, Christians, people of God, to do just that.
Read verse 19-20: "For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.” The point is clear.
Think about it. A good recommendation is that you should submit to your boss when you endure suffering that you deserve. It’s the right thing to do. And if your boss decides that there will be consequences for your poor work habits, that’s fine. No one’s impressed if you have your pay docked for laziness, lose hours because you aren’t showing up on time, or you are demoted for bad mouthing the boss. If you suffer for doing wrong, then you deserve it. Go back to submitting to your boss and get back in his good graces.
But what if you don’t deserve it? Then should you submit? What if you are blamed for a project that failed because a coworker didn’t complete his work on time? What if your boss is upset with home life and takes it out on you? What if you don’t get a promotion because the boss thinks the person who just got the promotion is better looking OR more popular than you?
God’s Word is still clear: SUBMIT. Work hard. Resepct.
This is a gracious thing! A commendable thing to God because it is motivated in love…undeserved love, yes…but love none the same. Especially when this service is, look at verse 19, “mindful of God.” When you continue to submit to a boss out of love for the LORD (not necessarily out of love for your boss, but love for the Lord) this is commendable before God!
So…how commendable have you been lately? Do you think God would be impressed with your work ethic? Is he happy with your attitude toward your boss? If you are retired or unemployed, is he happy with the effort you are putting forth in using your God given talents to serve your family? If you are in school, would God be impressed with the effort you put forth on your grades and the respect you show your teachers?
If you are human – and like me – I know the answer. “No.”
Yep. Even pastors are NOT PERFECT. We sin too. I sin too. I get overwhelmed by requests, I get tired, and I immediately play the blame game. I get lazy. I am tempted to ignore things that need to get done.
That’s not commendable at all.
If you have done this too, then you have something to confess, as well. If you want to confess sinful, lazy, vengeful, greedy, spiteful and selfish attitudes and actions at work, then join me. Join me right now in turning to the One, the only One, whose work was completely commendable to God – Jesus Christ.
II. Christ = A Great Example of a Great Worker
Now besides a boss, someone that can just as easily ruin a work experience is a client. Whether that client is an angry customer at McDonalds or an overbearing, complaining guy on the jobsite – bad clients make life hard for those who work for them.
Christ’s boss was God. He’s an awesome boss. But look who the clients were that he was called to work for: In verse 21, “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.”
Did you see it? Christ worked for us! You were his client.
And here’s the deal, those 4 bad qualities of a bad boss that we mentioned earlier, we have every one of them. Think about your relationship with God, aren’t we:
· Unthankful – I’m glad I am where I am in life. I have no one else to thank for it. No really. I’m the only one responsible.
· Lazy – God won’t you take care of this! I know I just have to do what your word says, but I’m too lazy to deal with it.
· Rude – God. Leave me alone. I don’t need you. I don’t need your word. Back off!
· Vengeful – God I can’t believe this happened. I’m upset with you. I’m angry with you. I’m blaming you!
We are probably some of the worst clients that anyone could ever have. We would probably quit working for us!
But not Jesus. He didn’t let the fact that we are ungrateful, selfish, vengeful, rude clients stop Him from doing his job.
In fact, nothing stopped him. Even when his work become most difficult: 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. In other words, he went about his work, perfectly, loving, without any sinful action or any sinful attitude! Amazing.
He did so even when the attacks were directly at him. Read the next verse, when he was reviled, he did not revile in return. When he was made fun of by the very people he came to serve – “Blasphemer! Fraud! Rebel! Phony!” Jesus could have legitimately called back: “Sinner! Adulterer! Jerk!” But he didn’t. He remained silently going about his work.
It continues, “When he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” When he was slapped, beaten with rods, crowned with thorns, whipped, and even crucified – he didn’t call down fire or threaten to open the earth and swallow his captor, he simply entrusted himself to His God and his God’s task for him.
Jesus did this until he completed his task.
Now I’ve had jobs before that are really difficult. Like a couple of months ago I was working on a puzzle. It was hard. I couldn’t tell if the pieces I was holding were for grass, a bush, or a bunch of pine trees. So…I QUIT.
Jesus didn’t do that. Scripture says, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.”
Healed. That’s past tense. It means his job was completely and perfectly completed. It isn’t even if he got it mostly finish and then said, “You guys finish it up.” NOPE! Jesus completely finished his work .
But that’s not all. Because his work directly affect you. You aren’t partially healed. You aren’t partially forgiven. Through faith in Jesus, you are fully and completely healed and forgiven.
It’s as if Jesus had one of those check lists that janitors have in the bathroom making sure they do everything they are supposed to. It would look something like this:
Sins of laziness forgiven? CHECK. Sins of hatefulness? CHECK. Sins of gossip? CHECK. Any and every sinful attitude completely paid for? CHECK. Peace established between God and humans? CHECK. Heaven paid for? CHECK. And DOUBLE CHECK!
Jesus is a great example of a great worker! He is an example for us and also our motivation. Therefore, Verse 24-25 tell us how to do that immediately: He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness…For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
3 Things God wants you to do to serve him:
1) Die to sin. Get rid of hatred for your work. Get rid of selfishness and laziness in any and all work that you do.
2) Live righteously. Keep God in your mind while you work – at your job, at home, at school, searching for a job! Keep God in mind and view each day as a chance to bring Him glory with your attitude and actions.
3) Know your Shepherd. Know that he watches over you.
A shepherd has hard work. He has to watch and take care of sheep. Sheep that are stubborn. Sheep that don’t listen. Sheep that don’t know what’s best for them.
Yet with the Shepherd at work, the sheep are confident. They don’t worry. They don’t fret. They just go about their work – which for sheep – is eating and growing wool.
It’s the same with you. Your Great Shepherd is at work. He is watching over you. So be at peace. Be confident. In spite of what you might encounter in your work, be confident that the Lord is at work for you! It’ll change your whole attitude.
If you haven't heard by now, the United States Government has "shutdown." The House and the Senate were unable to agree on a spending plan and so...without this plan in place...government jobs have been temporarily cut.
National Parks are closed. You have to wait to get a Federal home loan. You won't be seeing many work site inspectors on duty. You won't even be able to get your tax questions answered by the IRS hotline.
From all the pundits and news sources available, you will learn that the longer the shutdown goes on the more we will be affected.
This all may be a bit disheartening and extremely confusing. With less people working under Homeland Security, will the government be able to thwart attacks? Will the Center for Disease Control be able to spot dangerous outbreaks? Will people still receive all of the support and benefits they were promised? How long will all of this last?
Thankfully there is One Ruler who is still at work.
Jesus said it this way, "My Father is always at work to this very day even now as I too am working." (John 5:17)
In other words: God is NOT shut down.
His all powerful hands are still protecting us from all evil.
His incredible knowledge is still guiding all things for the good of those who love him.
He is still healing diseases of every variety.
He is still providing rain and sun when necessary.
He is still ready to answer any and all cries for help.
He is continuing to pour out all of the benefits that he promised in Jesus: forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and salvation.
And he will always be doing this!
He never tires, because he's eternal. He never makes poor decisions, because he's all knowing. He never is unable to do something, because he is all powerful! He keeps blessing our nation even when the majority of people want to give him a disapproval rating, because of his intense love for us!
For example, look at one of the roughest days of work that God ever had: While still controlling the weather, feeding the birds, taking care of the atmosphere, commanding tens of thousands of angels, and repeatedly defending against the devil, he also was slated to die. He dealt with all of your sins and mine. He worked through hell on earth in order to save you and me. He died!
Yet, he didn't stop working. The earth still revolved around the sun. The stars stayed in their places. Photosynthesis still was in production! For goodness sake: EVEN DEATH COULDN'T HOLD GOD BACK!
And on the third day, God in Jesus came back to life. He proved that his work wasn't in vain. He proved that his work on Good Friday would bring about eternal life to all who believed in him. Then, 40 days later, he ascended into heaven where he sits on the Eternal Throne to rule all of our universe.
What's the point?
If you're nervous about the government shutdown, look at the bigger picture. Look at the Incredible Ruler of the Universe. There's no job he can't handle. He'll never malfunction. He's totally trustworthy. He absolutely wise. He'll never come to an impasse in which he has to shut down his love.
He's always working for you.
PRAYER: Dear Lord above, please take care of us. In the midst of this strange political climate, bring peace. Guide us all with your incredibly loving hand. Show love to our nation because of your mercy. Forgive our sins. Watch over us with your eternal palms of power. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.
It’s Labor Day weekend. You know what that means?
It’s time for a break.
A long weekend.
A release from the grind.
A chance to relax.
All kinds of people will get a special break. Postal workers. Governors. Judges. Garbage men. Librarians. Teachers. Dentists. Doctors. Almost everyone..!?!
Not the Walmart worker. Not the McDonald’s cashier. Neither the hotel staff that keeps things clean while we all take a break nor the gas station attendant who keeps the pumps running so we can make it to work on Tuesday. Even an unlucky few police officers are working.
But at least they get breaks at the end of the day. No one can work endlessly. That'd be impossible. eventually our bodies shut down. We need rest. no one can go without rest!
Except for maybe one. Always on the job. 24/7. 365 days a year. Never sleeps. Never rests. Never has Labor Day Off.
Jesus said, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.”
What’s he doing? Providing you with food. Holding the sun in its gravitational spot so you don’t melt. Taking care of sparrows, dragonflies, and polliwogs.
But it’s deeper than that.
God is working on you.
He’s calling to you with his Word. “Repent! Stop sinning! Stop doing the awful work of offending me and look at the work that my Son has accomplished!"
Consider Jesus' job description: "Go to earth. Always defeat temptation. Suffer immensely. Do the work no one else could. Die and finish the work that everyone else should. Finish my plan of salvation for all people.
Your tools? A few nails. Some rugged boards. A work hat made of thorns.
Oh yes, and while you're doing this for everyone's eternal salvation, understand that most will not give a hoot about that most of their lives. In fact, they'll hate you. Despise you. Do all kinds of things that go against workplace ethics."
Sounds like a terrible job.
But Jesus did it. He did it so that you may have rest. Rest from the impossible labor of trying to please me. Rest from the burden of old sins rehashed. Rest from the fear of an eternity of punishment. Rest in knowing that you will one day rest from the sweats, aches, and pains of this world of work…in heaven.
Don’t forget to thank those working this Labor Day. Don't forget to thank the one who is working endlessly for you. Take a break from everything else, but not worshipping him. Find a church nearby your resort. Read through the Gospel of Mark and see all the work Jesus accomplished for us. Thank God in your prayers and teach your children to do the same thing.
God’s blessings as your rest on Labor Day Weekend. May the God who never rests watch over you! Amen.