Sunday, November 18, 2012

Doing It God's Way
(This sermon is built around an outline
originally suggested by Warren Wiersbe.)
Intro.: As you can guess, we had a wonderful trip these last three weeks.
  1. And I spent a great deal of time planning the trip so it would all fit together. 
  2. We had train reservations, we had motel reservations, we had friends to meet, and we had a couple of sight-seeing items to fit in.
  3. I tell you was most concerned with our stay in Seattle. We were scheduled to arrive at 9:30 at night. The hotels shuttle only ran until 10:00 PM – so if we were late, we would need to find our own ride from the Amtrak station to the hotel. But those concerns backfired – our train came in 1 hour early. Now we had to wait for the extra hour – in the rain – for the shuttle to arrive.

    But it was still confusing. The next morning we had a number of things to do

    1. eat breakfast, 
    2. get a ride from the motel to the Seattle Space Needle, 
    3. catch a 1:30 PM one hour tour of the Seattle harbor and 
    4. catch a 4:45 train back home to Rochester.

  4. But it all worked – we are here. Planning worked.
  5. The problem is they don't always.
  6. James knew that – listen to what he says.
Read: James 4:13-17

Trans:  The will of God meant something more to me 40 years ago.
  1. It meant finding a career
  2. It meant finding a place to work
  3. It meant finding the person to marry
  4. It meant a lot of things Today it means, as it
  5. should have them, listening to the voice of God and doing what he wants of me.
  6. But there is more than one response to the will of God.
T.S.  Warren Wiersbe suggests that James 4:13-17 introduces us to the three responses we can have to the will of God.
  1. Response #1: We can ignore the will of God
    1. There is no more common response to God's will. This is true for the non-Christian who gives no regard to the will of God. Sadly, to many of us who are believers are also living with the ugly truth that we ignore the will of God in making our plans.
    2. James makes it clear - “Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit'— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”
    3. Take a short test - “How did you start today?” Before going to church today – whether it be your home congregation or be it this service, did you spend any time asking God to direct your day?”
(Ill.) Perhaps you have heard the story of the elderly man who was heard praying, “Lord, thank you that I a healthy today and have not yet broken any bones today. I am grateful that I have had not need for extra help today or that I have gone without food. God you are truly good. Now, I, as I get out of bed, that you allow my day to end the same way.”
(Ill.) Shirley Dobson, wife of James Dobson – the founder of Focus on the Family – tells a similar story.

When Focus on the Family was in its early stages and our children were young, my husband, Jim, traveled often. I had grown accustomed to his absences and
was never really frightened while he was away. Except once. 

            One night about 2:00 a.m., I awoke with a start. I was afraid and didn’t know why. For a few minutes (it seemed like hours!), I lay in bed worrying. Finally, I forced myself out of bed and sank to my knees.
“Lord, I don’t know why I’m so frightened,” I prayed. “I ask you to watch over our home and to protect our family. Send your guardian angel to be with us.” I climbed back into bed, and in about half an hour I was back asleep.
The next morning our babysitter, who lived across the street, came running over. “Mrs. Dobson, did you hear what happened? A burglar robbed your next-door neighbor’s
house last night!”

It was true. A thief had broken in, entered the couple’s bedroom while they slept, and 
snatched the husband’s wallet from a dresser. The burglar escaped with the family’s vacation money, about $500. The police determined the time of the robbery: about 2:00 a.m. 

 My mind reeled at the thought. “If a burglar wanted to 
break into our house,” I said, “he would probably try to get in through the bathroom window near our children’s bedrooms. 
There’s a hedge, and he’d be shielded from view. Let’s go look.”  
When we looked at the window on the other side of the house, we saw that the screen was bent and the sill splintered. Someone had indeed tried to break in!
I am convinced that God protected us that night. I was surprised, but I should not have been. For years, Jim and I had prayed and fasted, trusting God to protect our family. We knew God powerfully works through prayer. On that dark early morning, my trust was tested in a frantic moment, and God proved faithful.
    1. I can’t explain why God allows difficulties to come into our lives even though we are praying. But I know that in all circumstances, as the psalmist tells us, God is an
      ever-present help in trouble.1
    2. Both this elderly man and Shirley Dobson knew that they needed to submit to the will of God – whether they knew what was coming in the future or not.
    3. Perhaps when you wake tomorrow, you too can begin the day by asking to be fully in the will of God.
  1. Response #2: We can disobey the will of God
    1. Sadly, Christians also may choose to disobey the will of God.
    2. There may be times we will ask, “What is God's will?” - but there are times we know it:
      1. Love your neighbor
      2. Be kind
      3. Feed the poor
      4. Forgive those who wrong us
      5. … there are others
    3. But we choose to not obey – too hard, takes too much from us, the one we need to forgive does not deserve it.
    4. And so we decide to not obey.
(Ill.) One writer writes that he once learned a lesson from a dog he had. His father used to put a bit of meat or biscuit on the floor near the dog and say, “No!” and the dog knew he must not touch it. But he never looked at the meat. He seemed to feel that if he did so, the temptation to disobey would be too great, so he looked steadily at the father’s face. There is a lesson for us all. Always look up to the Master’s face.2
    1. Today, let's choose to not disobey – let's choose to look at the master's face.
  1. Response #3: We can look for and obey the will of God
    1. We can ignore God's will – and do what we want without considering it
    2. We can know God's will – and choose to disobey it
    3. But there is a third option for all of us. We can seek to understand God's will – and then choose to obey it!
    4. There are a couple of definitions of sin that the church uses -
      1. The most common is based on the Greek meaning of the word for sin, “Amartia” - it means “missing the mark”. The picture you might use is a target – God's will is represented by the smallest little circle in the center. And anything that veers short of that circle is sin.
      2. John Wesley's favorite definition of sin echo's that given by James, “A willful transgression of a known law of God.”
      3. Some would say we have to choose one definition or the other – it is either one or the other. I would argue that it is not either/or but rather both/and. Sin is “missing the mark” and it is a “willful transgression of a known law of God.”
    5. And here is the bottom line – I do not want to sin. I do want to know what god expects of me – and do it. And I do not want to miss the mark.
    6. I will miss the mark – I do not always know what God wants, I do not always get it right when I think I do – I will sin. But praise God, He forgives me when I do.

Shirley Dobson, Certain Peace in Uncertain Times (Multnomah, 2002) quoted in Larson, C. B., & Ten Elshof, P. (2008). 1001 illustrations that connect (133). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.
Leslie E. Dunkin quoted in Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times. Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Judge Not

Judge Not
Intro.: I think it would be pretty obvious that I like education.
  1. I mean, with 5 college degrees, including 3 Masters degrees, there must be something that keeps driving me back to school.
  2. I mean, even after having done that, since I had been away from formal ministry for so long, I began to pursue a personal retraining program. I took a half dozen trips to Indiana to take FLAME courses – mostly designed for people who were considering entering ministry as a second career, but used by me as a way to re-establish much of what I had learned 20 years earlier in seminary.
  3. That has been my life.
  4. But there is a university that God wants all to attend – that is His University.
  5. Life is the classroom – as we move through the various events that God put across our life.
  6. And any classroom needs a textbook – the answer would be obvious – the Bible
  7. And every classroom needs a teacher – for the Christian the teacher is the Holy Spirit.
  8. This week, God took me into his own university.
  9. I had to learn an important lesson – one I did not expect to learn.
  10. And I got it as I spent time in the University text book – the word of God. And I did not need to go far from where we left off last week.
Read: James 4:11-12
T.S. What was it that I learned this week, what was this important lesson that God had to teach me, a lesson so important that we all have to learn it.
  1. I learned I can be like God
    1. How often have I preached it – let us follow your example.
    2. I really want my life to reflect who Jesus is.
    3. Of course I want to love those allow to cross my path.
    4. But you know, every so often some crosses my path that gets me really upset. After all – I know that not everybody is perfect.
    5. But there are times that I wish I had a little blue flashing light that I could place on top of my car – when some is following too closely, when someone passes me to fast.
    6. Or there are times when I wish I could pull out a badge and at least scare that person who just about pushed me over in the grocery store.
    7. I suppose I might be just like everybody else:
(Ill.) Too many people sit in judgment on everybody. They seem to delight in imputing unworthy motives to others, and in this respect perhaps they are judging others by themselves. When they see someone working for the Lord, they’ll say, “Oh, yes, George is a real saint, but he gets paid for what he does, you know.” The inference is that if he weren’t paid he’d not be so zealous for the Lord. It may be that the financial compensation for his work had something to do with his decision to engage in it; but it may not have been his main motive by any means. It’s all too human to exaggerate the secondary motives of others. We seem to derive some sort of satisfaction in pointing out the flaws in their characters. It seems that the only way some people can build themselves up in their own eyes is by tearing others down.
    1. And judging is part of what God does – and I do want to be like Jesus.
  1. But I learned that God does not always want me to be like him
    1. And that is exactly what God intended. Listen again to the words of James:
          Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?

(Ill.) Mahatma Gandhi once asked Mahatma Gandhi what would it take to make Christianity more acceptable in India. Gandhi replied, “I would suggest, first, that all of you Christians … begin to live more like Jesus Christ.”i
    1. The world knows we need to be like Jesus – but God places limits – here he tells us not to judge.
(Ill.) I like this poem:

                                        Judge not.
                                        The workings of the mind and heart
                                        Thou canst not see.
                                        What looks to thy dim eyes as stain
                                        In God’s pure light may only be a scar,
                                        Bought from some well-won field
                                        Where thou wouldst only faint and yield.ii
    1. When I take time to judge others, I am playing the role of God – a role he does not want me to play.
    2. But that is not quite right – you see, it is not only the judging of others that can trap us up, it is also judging ourselves.
    3. It is easy to understand that God loves everyone – but too often we live as if it were everyone else. I can understand why he does not want me to be judging them.
    4. But God loves me too. And if God loves me, then what right do I have to judge myself – I mean I am as broken as the rest of the world.
    5. And God also loves you. And if God loves you, then what right do you have to judge yourself – I mean you and I both are as broken as the rest of the world.
    6. We need to show as much grace to each other, and to ourselves, as we show to the rest of the world.
    7. God does, can I do any less.

  1. Bottom line – I am called to share God's love and do his work, not to take on his responsibility.
    1. Judging is not a behavior God wants from His people. James makes it clear when he writes, But who are you to judge your neighbor? Man lacks the requisite knowledge and wisdom and purity to do this job that God reserves for himself.
(Ill.) Among the Sioux Indians there prevailed in the days of the frontier a strange custom. If one of the tribes determined to travel for a little while in areas guarded by other tribes, always on the night before he left his camp, the traveler would be required to sit with the chiefs of the Sioux tribe around a campfire and then before it fell back into gray ash he would be asked to arise and, silhouetted against the flames, would lift this prayer, “Great Spirit, help me to never judge another until I have walked two weeks in his moccasins.” iii
    1. What we can do is love our neighbors and our brothers and sisters in Christ.
    2. Rather than judging others or ourselves, we can spend our time understanding the characteristics of believer such as we saw in Ps. 15 as we had our responsive reading this morning..
    3. Finally, The reasonableness of fearing God, as the one true and final Judge.iv God both loves us and is our judge.
(Ill.) Let me conclude with a story that may help us remember how God can both love us and be our judge. The story was originally told by Josh McDowell in his book More Than A Carpenter. He tells us that an incident that took place several years ago in California illuminates what Jesus did on the cross.… A young woman was picked up for speeding. She was ticketed and taken before the judge. The judge read off the citation and said, “Guilty or not guilty?” The woman replied, “Guilty.” The judge brought down the gavel and fined her $100 or ten days. Then an amazing thing took place. The judge stood up, took off his robe, walked down around in front, took out his billfold, and paid the fine. What’s the explanation of this? The judge was her father. He loved his daughter, yet he was a just judge. His daughter had broken the law, and he couldn’t just say to her, “Because I love you so much, I forgive you. You may leave.” If he had done that, he wouldn’t have been a righteous judge.… But he loved his daughter so much he was willing to take off his judicial robe and come down in front and represent her as her father and pay the fine.v

iMorgan, R. J. (2000). Nelson’s complete book of stories, illustrations, and quotes (electronic ed.) (103). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
iiIllustrations for Biblical Preaching: Over 1500 sermon illustrations arranged by topic and indexed exhaustively. 1989 (M. P. Green, Ed.) (Revised edition of: The expositor's illustration file). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.
iiiSizoo, Joseph R. Quoted in Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times. Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc.
ivJames. 1909 (H. D. M. Spence-Jones, Ed.). The Pulpit Commentary (63). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.
vMcDowell, Joshua in More Than A Carpenter. Quoted in Morgan, R. J. (2000). Nelson’s complete book of stories, illustrations, and quotes (electronic ed.) (173). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Humble: How and Why

Humble: How and Why
Intro.: I don't like today's sermon.
  1. You will see over the next few minutes, it asks me to be something I am not.
  2. It asks me to do something that is just not be – and having lived 61 years without this characteristic, why start now.
  3. I mean somethings are just not worth it – and this is one of them. 
  4. I never signed anything that says I should do this, why bother. Now if I were talking about being nice, you would understand.
  5. But I am not – listen to what James says.
Read:  James 4:6-10
  1. Humility is like a slippery watermelon seed. Once you get it under your finger and you think you have it, it slips away from your grasp.i
  2. Phillip Brooks is best known for writing “O Little Town of Bethlehem”.   He once commented about humility: “The true way to be humble is not to stoop until you are smaller than yourself, but to stand at your real height against some higher nature that will show you what the real smallness of your greatness is”ii
  1. God opposes the proud but favors the humble.” James 6:4
    1. James, like most writers, is not very original. He is quoting Proverbs 3:34
(Ill.) Now if you were to check your own Bible, it would not read like this. To understand this quote we need to go back 300 years before Christ. A group of 70 Jewish scholars produced a translation of the Jewish scriptures into Greek. That version, known as the Septuagint, was written in an early form of the same Greek that Paul, Peter, and James (in fact all of the authors of the NT) used to write their various books, letters, and essays. Though James 6:4 is not a direct quote of the Hebrew version of Proverbs 3:34, but it is a direct quote of the Greek LXX version.
    1. Human pride is the one insurmountable barrier to grace. Over and again in the Gospels, Jesus lamented the inability of the scribes and Pharisees to get past their pride so that they might receive God’s grace like the poor and openly sinful had done.
    2. But God is willing to meet us once we set our pride aside and allow Him to take our lives apart and rebuild them.
    3. And with this simple quote, “God opposes the proud but favors the humble.”,
      James prepares his readers for some of the most important instruction in his letter.
(Ill.) A small cathedral outside Bethlehem marks the supposed birthplace of Jesus. Behind a high altar in the church is a cave, a little cavern lit by silver lamps.  You can enter the main edifice and admire the ancient church. You can also enter the quiet cave where a star embedded in the floor recognizes the birth of the King. There is one stipulation, however. You have to stoop. The door is so low you can’t go in standing up.  The same is true of our relationship to Christ. You can see the world standing tall, but to witness, to draw near to the Savior, you have to get [down] on your knees.ii
    1. And it is with that thought that James begins the next sentence.

  1. James starts the next paragraph “Submit yourselves, then, to God.” (James 4:7)
    1. That word submit has a number of meanings that tie this verse, and the section, to the previous verse.
    2. First, let me point out that the word “submit” is a loose translation of a Greek word meaning to subject or attach to or be subordinate to. It implies that we are God's servants.
    3. But, and it almost caught me off guard, there is at least one translation that renders “submit” as “humble”. The New Living Translation says, “So humble yourselves before God”.
    4. Let me paraphrase what James is saying in verses 6 and 7:
      1. God opposes the proud but favors the humble.
      2. So “Submit yourselves, then, to God”
    5. But if we are to submit ourselves to God, how do we do that?
    6. James tells us with a series of commands
      1. Resist the devil and he will flee from you – we live in a world that does not believe in a devil. Yet Jesus certainly did – he had to resist Him. He set the pattern for us. We don't need to do everything we want to do – we can say "No”.
      2. Come close to God and He will come close to you – there are times that God seems far away.
(Ill.) I was reading last night of a woman who had just discovered that her husband had committed adultery with one of her best friends. Her friend sat across the aisle from her in church, her husband was hidden away in the sound booth. As she sat in the pew with her three children, she felt isolated, where was God, she had no one she could trust. She was near tears – but as she sat there, totally crushed, she felt someone put their arms around her, holding her in all her pain. She suddenly became aware that there was no one there – no one but Jesus. Out of that experience Mona Shriver came to know, that though there would be times that Jesus would seem so far away, he was still there. He would take care of her and be with her through all the pain. She had learned the truth of James instruction, “Come close to God and He will come close to you.”
      1. Wash your hands, you sinners” - we all are fallen, we are all sinners. And when we sin, when we become aware of our sin, we need to be on our knees (figuratively, if not literally) confessing our sin.
        1. Did you lose your temper? Confess it. Apologize.
        2. Did you fib or lie to a friend? Confess it. Apologize.
        3. Did you over eat? Confess it. Rethink what you are eating.
        4. I may not be Catholic, but they have a wonderful sacrament of "Confession”. We in the protestant church do not have a formal sacrament of confession – if we did, it might make it bit easier to take our errors to God.
      2. Purify you hearts for your loyalty is devided between God and the world.  Ouch – I follow God. But I read the same books as the world. I watch the same TV shows, I try not to behave too differently than my friends. I follow God – but, well “but”.
      3. Being humble before God, submitting ourselves to God will not be easy – look at the words James uses – tears, sorrow, deep grief, sadness, gloom. That does not sound like joy.  But putting our broken selves before a holy God is not easy to do. And tears are not uncommon when we bring the real us before a holy God.
      4. But when we do, God offers us a promise – and that brings us to the end of our passage.
  1. James concludes the paragraph with these words, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.”
    1. I don't know what God wants for you, I don't even know what God wants for me.
    2. But I know if I am willing to wait, willing to let him change me,  willing to be humble (and I know how hard that is), he will use me in unexpected ways.
    3. He may exalt me, but I still need to follow the process he gave me for learning to be humble:
      1. Resist the devil
      2. Come close to God
      3. Wash our hands of sin
      4. Purify our hearts


for Biblical Preaching: Over 1500 sermon illustrations arranged by
topic and indexed exhaustively
. 1989 (M. P. Green, Ed.) (Revised
edition of: The expositor's illustration file). Grand Rapids: Baker
Book House.
for Biblical Preaching: Over 1500 sermon illustrations arranged by
topic and indexed exhaustively
. 1989 (M. P. Green, Ed.) (Revised
edition of: The expositor's illustration file). Grand Rapids: Baker
Book House.
M., & Gibbs, T. A. (2000). Originally from The Applause of
. Quoted in Grace For the Moment: Inspirational
Thoughts For Each Day Of the Year
(384). Nashville, TN: J.

Sunday, October 07, 2012


Friendship is like a garden,
Of flowers fine and rare,
It cannot reach perfection,
Except through loving care,
Then, new and lovely blossoms
With each new day appear,
For friendship, like a garden,
Grows in beauty year by year.

                 James spoke of friendship -

Read: James 4:4-6
Trans: I learned a great deal about being a friend of God
  1. Did you know that Abraham is the only man in the OT who is called a friend of God?
  2. In the NT, Jesus calls his disciples his friends.
  3. But two others are named “friend of God”
    1. Reuel is the name of Moses' father-in-law, his Hebrew name is translated “friend of God”.
    2. In the NT, Dr. Luke addresses his gospel and the book of Acts to a disciples named Theophilos. Theophilos' Greek name is also translated “friend of God”.
T.S. I want to ask you two questions based on today's passage.
  1. The first question is this – what does it meant to be a friend?
    1. James says, “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”
    2. The passage centers around “friendship” - so if I am going to understand what James is saying, I have to understand the nature of friendship.
    3. The scripture has a number of examples of friendship – there is Eli the priest and Samuel the prophet, Naomi and her daughter-in-law Ruth, and the most famous friendship of all, David and Jonathan.
    4. We find the story of Jonathan and David in the book of I Samuel – a quick glimpse of their relationship can be seen in I Samuel 18:1-4. (READ)
    5. This short interaction gives us four characteristics of a good friend:
      1. I want to discuss these in the order they occur in the text – not necessarily the order in which they occur with every friend – but they are part of the friendships we develop in our life.
      2. Friendship begins with Love
        1. Listen again, “After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became on in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself.”
        2. Jonathan and David's friendship began with a love.
        3. The rules of I Corinthians 13 applied – even in the OT. “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
        4. But friendship is more than love, it involves three other facets.
      3. The next characteristic is commitment.
        1. Jonathan made a covenant with David – David made a commitment to Jonathan.
(Ill.) A couple of weeks ago we purchased a new (new to us, anyhow) car. Relatively cheap – a pile of steel really. But from the day we first saw the car, decided to purchase it, and we finally drove it off the lot, was a week long. I was surprised that I never had to sign anything until that day we drove away. You see, until the day we put down that money, we really had not committed to buying that car. Actually, we could have walked away from the car at anytime during that week – not till we plopped down the money did that car really belong to us.
        1. Friendship takes a commitment – I had a pastor that told us once, “We each need a 3:00 AM friend. We need someone that we can call at 3:00 AM when trouble hits.”
        2. Friendship requires a commitment.
      1. Friendship involves sharing
(Ill.) Someone has said, “The proof of God’s caring is His sharing. The everlasting arms of God are put beneath the load, not that we may escape our rightful obligations, but that we may be sustained in discharging them.”i
        1. The same is true for us – to you want to prove you care – learn to share. Jonathan shared ...
        2. As David prepares to run for his life, Jonathan shares his robe, tunic, sword, as well as his bow and his belt. Jonathan takes everything he can give within reason in his possession and shares it with David. If David ends up needed protection, he will have what he need.
        3. Now, we will never have to give our sword or bow to a friend in 20th century America. But what we do have, we can share.
      1. The final characteristic is trust.
        1. Jonathan has just turn over his weapons to the man that is hated most by his father, by the king.
        2. If Jonathan did not trust David – he could be in big trouble about now.
        3. It may not be stated explicitly in I Samuel, but it is clearly seen in how Jonathan and David interact.
        4. It will also be seen in how I interact with my friends. It will be seen in how you interact with your friends.
    1. Jonathan and David provide a helpful look at the nature of friendship.
    2. But once we know what friendship is, James 4:4 raises a second question.
  1. The second question is this – whose friend are you?
    1. Let's look one more time at James 4:4, “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”
    2. I must ask myself, we each must ask ourselves -
      1. Am I a friend of God
      2. or Am I a friend of the world
    3. What do you love – what TV shows? What music? What books? What does the answer to these questions tell you about who you love – the world or God.
    4. What commitments have you made – are they indicative of a person who loves the world? Or are they indicative of one who loves God?
    5. What do you share? It is easy to share the things that are part of our lives – but things show our connection to the world. I have to ask myself, “What part of my spiritual lives do I share with the people around me?” “What part of your spiritual life do you share with the people around you?”
    6. Who do you trust? Will you take your needs to God first? Is your first thought to pray?
    7. Your response to these questions may help you understand who you love.

Conclusion: Let us become friends of God …
  1. Let's choose to love Him more
  2. Let's commit ourselves to knowing and following Him
  3. Let's God use each of us to share His love and gifts with others
  4. Let's determine to trust God, every day, regardless of what comes.
  5. Let conclude by pointing out that Chuck Swindoll has written, “... a friend of God is one who knows Him intimately and obeys Him willingly. A friend of God is characterized by uncompromising obedience to Christ and a growing knowledge of Christ.”ii
  6. Are you a friend of God? Do you want to be a friend of God?

iAMG Bible Illustrations. 2000. Bible Illustrations Series. Chattanooga: AMG Publishers.
iiSwindoll, C. R., & Zuck, R. B. (2003). Understanding Christian theology. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Preparing For The Meal
Intro.: You may have heard the story of the man who went to the doctor because he was struggling with his memory.
  1. He told the doctor, “Doc, I can’t seem to remember anything from one minute to the next.”
  2. The doctor asked him, “How long has this been going on?”
  3. The man replied, “How long has what been going on?”
  4. We may feel like that at times; we realize that we are very good “forgetters.”
  5. Jesus knew all too well our tendency to forget, and one of the reasons He instituted the Lord’s Supper was so that we would not forget His sacrifice for us.
  6. He instituted the Lord’s Supper was so that we would not forget His sacrifice for us
Read: Revelation 1:4-8
Trans: Last week I suggested that there were certain things I do not like to preach about.
  1. Money
  2. Tough topics
  3. Revelation
  4. Yet I turn to Revelation today, not so much to preach on Revelation, but to help us think about the Lord's Supper that we will be sharing in a few minutes.
T.S. I would like for us to reflect on five important truths found in Revelation 1:4–6that we should remember as we prepare to take the Lord’s Supper together:
  1. Truth # 1: God is in Control. (vv 4-5)
    1. Verse 4refers to Jesus’ throne in heaven; verse 5says Jesus is “the ruler over the kings of the earth.”
    2. We live in a day of great uncertainty.
    3. Many of us wake up in the morning and turn on the television or radio to see what has happened around the world overnight.
    4. There is great uncertainty in the world, but there is perfect calm in heaven.
    5. There is fear in the world, but there is perfect peace in heaven.
    6. Why? Because all the angels in heaven, all the redeemed in heaven, know full well that God is in control.
(Ill.)Let me ask you a question:
  1. Do you think God controlled this world before you came into it?
  2. Do you think God He will control this world once you leave it?
  3. Don't you think, then, that maybe, just maybe, he will be able to control it while you are still here?
  4. Many times as believers, we too wrestle with the problems we face, not realizing that God has been with us all the time. For this to be our hope, we must realize God is in control.i
    1. From heaven’s perspective it is easy to see that truth, but it is hard for us to see it sometimes.
  1. Truth #2: God Loves Us (v. 5b)
    1. John refers to Jesus as “Him who loved us …” in verse 5.
    2. How much does God love us?
      1. God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).
      2. Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1).
      3. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:9–10).
    3. God shows His love by meeting our greatest need: our need for forgiveness.
    4. If we want proof of God’s love for us, we only need to look at the cross.
    5. Calvary is the absolute, irrefutable proof of God’s love for us.
(Ill.) I was going to throw an illustration in here about God's love, but it dawned on me that nothing can illustrate God's love better than what he did on Calvary.
    1. We need to remember His great love for us and celebrate that love as we prepare our hearts to partake of the Lord’s Supper.
  1. Truth #3: Our Sins Have Been Forgiven (v. 5b).
    1. John refers to Jesus again as Him who “washed us from our sins in His own blood.”
    2. Hebrews 9:22tells us “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (niv).
    3. Under the old covenant, that blood was of an innocent bull, goat, or lamb. When that animal was sacrificed in the temple, the blood conveyed reconciliation with God.
    4. As we reflect on the new covenant, brought by Jesus Christ, the apostle Peter reminds us in 1 Peter 1:18–19: “knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”
    5. It is only through Christ that we can be delivered from judgment, and experience forgiveness of sins and eternal life in heaven with God.
I counted dollars while God counted crosses,
I counted gains while He counted losses,
I counted my worth by the things gained in store
But He sized me up by the scars that I bore.
I coveted honors and sought for degrees,
He wept as He counted the hours on my knees;
I never knew until one day by the grave
How vain are the things that we spend life to save;
I did not yet know until my loved one went above
That richest is he who is rich in God’s love. ii
    1. As we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, we need to remember our sins have been forgiven.
  1. Truth #4: We are called to serve Him (v. 6a)
    1. John continues to explain that Jesus “has made us kings and priests to His God and Father.”
    2. It has been said that believers “Gather to worship, then depart to serve.”
    3. That is never truer than when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper.
    4. Listen to what the write of Hebrews says, How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” (Heb. 9:14niv).
    5. Paul writes, For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph. 2:10niv).
(Ill.) Many years ago a humble pastor served a church in a little country town. His ministry was quiet, and few souls were brought to Christ there. Year in and year out, the work became more and more discouraging. It was only years later that the faithful minister found great joy in the knowledge that one of those he had won to Christ was Charles Haddon Spurgeon, a man who was later used by God to bring multitudes to his Son. Humble service is rewarded now and certainly will be rewarded even more when Christ comes.iii
    1. We need to be reminded that His sacrifice was not just so that we might be forgiven, but also so that we can serve Him.
  1. Truth #5: We must live for His glory (v. 6b)
    1. John concludes this paragraph: “to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
    2. We are to live for His glory.
    3. One of the truths that celebrating the Lord’s Supper reminds us of is that it is SO not about us! It’s all about Him and His glory.
    4. As Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 10:31: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (niv).
    5. He also reminds us that recognizing God’s grace destroys our pride: “For it is by grace you have been saved through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Eph. 2:8–9niv).
    6. We are to live for His glory.
Conclusion: In a few moments we are going to celebrate the Lord’s Supper together, but first let’s have a time of quiet meditation.
  1. May God’s Word penetrate our hearts with these five important truths:
    1. God is in control;
    2. God loves us;
    3. our sins have been forgiven;
    4. we are called to serve Him;
    5. and we must live for His glory.
  2. Let’s reflect on these truths as we prepare our hearts, confessing any known sin to the Lord.
iAMG Bible Illustrations. 2000. Bible Illustrations Series. Chattanooga: AMG Publishers.
iiFrom The Brethren Evangelist as found in Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times. Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc.
iiiIllustrations for Biblical Preaching: Over 1500 sermon illustrations arranged by topic and indexed exhaustively. 1989 (M. P. Green, Ed.) (Revised edition of: The expositor's illustration file). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.   
Much of this sermon is based on a sermon preached by Dr. Timothy K. Beougher as found in Morgan, R. J. Nelson’s Annual Preacher’s Sourcebook (2009 Edition). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.