On the Plains of Moab Blog
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December 20, 2012, 7:22 PM

Until Christ Be Formed in You!


A new year on the way.  I have been giving some thought to the preaching ahead.  Still working it out in my head, but I think that I will be tackling the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew's Gospel and the Ten Commandments.  Looking at the Gospel of John and perhaps Jonah.  If there is more room, I may take on 1 Corinthians.  Who knows?

I do know that my controlling thought will be from Galatians:  Paul says to his beloved congregation in the Galatian churches:  "...My little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!" (Gal 4:19 ESV).  That's my "year verse" for 2013.  Until Christ be formed in you.  Until Jesus Christ has thoroughly owned your heart, I won't rest.  I won't hear of "Good job, pastor" until we get that right.  Nothing will be good enough until we all arrive their together.  Of course, we know that we won't get there until we stand before the Throne in glory...but, we must never stop pushing and encouraging each other towards that end.




December 18, 2012, 9:00 AM

The Christmas Story: Elizabeth. Sermon Text


Luke 1:39-45  Advent Sermon #3 of 6

A priest and his wife lived before the Lord faithfully.  Zechariah and Elizabeth.  Serving him.  Walking before him in his ways.  Keeping his commandments.  They had no children.  Elizabeth, unable to give birth to any children.  Barren.Both Elizabeth and Zechariah were"advanced in years," so there was really no hope of ever seeing any children in their immediate family.

One day, as the old priest was serving in the temple before the altar of incense in the holy place, the angel of the Lord appeared suddenly before the old priest.  It startled him.  He was immediately fearful for his life in the presence of unfiltered holiness.  The angel's name was Gabriel, for he was the one who stands in the presence of God; his messenger, straight from the heart of the Throne.

Gabriel said, "Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.  And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great before the Lord....and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb.  And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared." (Lk. 1:13-17 ESV).

The child Gabriel speaks will become John the Baptist.   The child who will one day turn the hearts of his people to their God.  He will be the Elijah to come who announces the dawn of the ever-coming Kingdom of God.  He will be the one who cries"in the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.  Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.  And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed...." (Isa 40:3-5 ESV).

But Zechariah hesitates at the news.  No way, that can't happen.  I am an old man, and my wife Elizabeth is an old woman.  And.  She is barren too.  "Nothing will be impossible with God,"but this is impossible!

As the last of his unbelief came out of his hear through the mouth, God gave him the gift of silence.  Zechariah became mute.  Unable to utter a single word until the child was born.  As Gabriel had spoken, so Elizabeth did conceive and deliver a child in her old age.  Neither barren-ness nor old age is an insurmountable barrier to God’s plans.

Elizabeth was the one, who, in a manner not unlike her son's future prophetic role, bore witness to the coming of the King to the mother of God, the virgin Mary.  Elizabeth magnifies the significance of the angelic proclamation:  When Elizabeth heard…Mary...[she] was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!  And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.  And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord." (Lk. 1:41-45 ESV).

Mary responds to her encounter with Elizabeth in her own song of praise -- the magnificat.  She says that God has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.  He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy.... (Lk. 1:51-54 ESV).

In thinking about these two women, Mary and Elizabeth, you can't help but see the unconventional wisdom and purposes of God being played out in these two lives for the world to see.  Wisdom and purpose that confounds the way the world thinks.  Wisdom and purpose that turns the world upside down and inside out. As the apostle Paul says so to the point:  The foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.  For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.  But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. (1 Cor. 1:25-29 ESV).

God used Elizabeth, an older, previously barren woman to be the bearer of the Elijah to come.  He used her to be the first human messenger to notice the significance of Mary’s pregnancy.  Elizabeth wasn’t a religious professional like her husband Zechariah.  She wasn’t supposed to have any proficiency in the things of God.And as a woman, she certainly didn’t have a very high standing in the world of her day.

In reality, Elizabeth is a picture of the unconventional God who will come wrapped in human flesh from the womb of Mary.  He will be a King.  Of the royal line of King David, and yet born in the modesty ofa manger.  He will not grow up in the halls of privilege or leisure like the kings of his day.  He will grow up relatively poor and unremarkable in most respects.  When he begins his ministry, he is not accepted by the ones who should know better.  He is subject to all manner of abuse and human ill-will.

And yet, in this humble man, the world will be saved.

The journey of Advent continues.

You have heard the Word of God.  Please consider it well.   Amen.




December 9, 2012, 4:39 PM

The Christmas Story: Mary. Sermon Text


Luke 1:26-38; 46-55

We have already spoken of  the meaning of this Advent season...it basically means “arrival.”  Let me add a few more words to the mix:  “dawn” or “introduction.”  In the language and texture of the scriptures, advent speaks of an anticipation of the long-awaited King.

This morning, we speak of the climax - the high point - the pinnacle - of advent hope.  I want to take you back to that journey to Bethlehem and no room at the Inn.  It’s about shepherds in the field receiving a heavenly message and being serenaded by a heavenly choir.  And, it’s about a special baby being born in a special way.  It’s about the first coming of Messiah into the world.

A frightened Mary learns about the child she will carry from the angel Gabriel.  “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.  And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:30-33 ESV)  In response to the announcement, Mary breaks forth into praise and thanksgiving to God for what He has done (1:46).  “My soul magnifies the Lord….”

Traditionally, this portion of Scripture has come to be known as the “Magnificat.”  This title comes from the first word of the song in the Vulgate, the Latin version of the Bible.  Magnificat is the Latin word for magnify:  “My soul magnifies (magnificat) the Lord….”  [magnificat anima mea Dominum].

From the long song that comes from Mary, it’s apparent that she understands what God is up to.  Gabriel said her child would inherit the throne of King David and rule forevermore.  To fully understand Mary's beautiful words, you must look back to 2 Samuel 7 –God makes a promise to King David that one of his descendants would always be on the throne.  [David] your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me.  Your throne shall be established forever.” (2 Samuel 7:16).

Through this promise in 2 Samuel, King David became the quintessential standard-bearer for all Hebrew kings.  Here’s what it meant for Israel:  All subsequent kings from David were compared to him, the man after God’s own heart (1 Sam. 13:14):  If a king was not judged to be like David, he was a bad king.  If a king was like David, he was judged to be a good king.

Often, we forget about this important OT piece of the puzzle, and we miss the real “meat” behind Advent.  Let me review for a moment:  The nation of Israel, as you know, had a well-deserved reputation for waywardness:

·        Exodus 32:9“And the Lord said to Moses, ‘I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people.’”

·        Exodus 33:3“Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.”

·        Exodus 34:9 “And [Moses] said, ‘If now I have found favor in your sight, O Lord, please let the Lord go in the midst of us, for it is a stiff-necked people, and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for your inheritance.’”

·        2 Chronicles 30:8“Do not now be stiff-necked as your fathers were, but yield yourselves to the Lord and come to his sanctuary, which he has consecrated forever, and serve the Lord your God, that his fierce anger may turn away from you.”

·        Acts 7:51 Stephen said, “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit.  As your fathers did, so do you.”

And yet, God remained faithful:

  • From bondage in Egypt.
  • In the wilderness wanderings.
  • Into the land that flowed with milk and honey.
  • And then, God even gave Israel a human king –just as they wished.

Now, this request for a human king brought much heartache to the nation.

You remember King Saul?  Poor Saul became a king just like the ones neighboring Israel – a self-absorbed despot.  Interestingly, 1 Samuel 8:11f. describes all of the potentially oppressive characteristics that a human king could possess, and King Saul lived up to that billing!

But, then came David.  God established his kingdom.  Overall, foibles and all, David was a good and just king.  Israel flourished under him.  But, as subsequent kings came and went, the kingdom divided and the memory of the great king became a distant memory.  The people were ultimately sent into exile in Babylon because of their refusal to obey God.   It was a sad time for Israel.  Psalm 137 says that they hung up their harps on willow trees by the river and refused to sing during this period of disgrace.

But on the other hand, the prophets talked about a time when a descendant of David would restore the kingdom.

  • They talked about a time when God would put a song of joy back into their hearts.
  • They would leave Babylonand return to the land in glory and justice and righteousness would reign once again!

Sadly, this glorious return to the land never fully developed.

Oh, to be sure, the people did return to the land in 538 BC and they even rebuilt the Temple a couple of years later under the ministries of Ezra and Nehemiah.  But, although they had returned to the land physically, they never quite made it spiritually.  Their hearts were still far from God and so the faithful still continued to pine for that descendant of David.  They remembered the promise.

For over 400 years, there was silence between the closing of the Old Testament and the dawn of the New Testament era.  There was no prophetic voice in Israel during this time.

But as the New Testament opens, a prophetic voice returns to Israel in John the Baptist.  The long awaited Son of David is about to come on the scene.  Restoration is on the way!  God is going to do a great thing in Israel!  The momentous words in Isaiah 40:3-5 begin to find fulfillment:

A voice of one calling: ‘In the desert prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God.  Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.  And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’"

John the Baptist announces the return to the land, the spiritual return to the land!  After all these long years, Israel is about to receive back their kingdom and their king.

And now, finally, we return to Mary’s song.  Her soul magnifies the Lord!  Why?  Because God has indeed been faithful and true to His promise.

Mary’s song underscores the fact that God’s people have long been the underdog.  But now, God is about to turn the tables.  The rules are about to change.

Mary’s relatives, Elizabeth and Zechariah rejoiced with her.  Later in Luke 2, as the infant Jesus is presented at the JerusalemTemple, the righteous Simeon gave thanks to God for allowing his aging eyes to gaze upon the newborn king.  The prophetess, Anna did likewise.  They all knew the significance of this long awaited advent.

The birth of our Savior in Bethlehem marked the dawn of a new age.  You can now understand all of the excitement that fills the first two chapters of the Gospel of Luke.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11)

And now, my friends, having given you some background to Advent, I have to tell you that there is more that concerns you.  Before you met Jesus, you too were in exile; a spiritual exile.

King Jesus has come to rescue you from your own dark exile.

·        For some of you, it was an exile of unbelief.

·        For some, an exile of self-sufficiency.

·        For some of you, it was an exile of materialism.

·        Where was your exile?

Whatever the case may have been, you have been found and redeemed by your King!  We serve the ultimate King David!  This King David will never let us down.  He will always rule justly and righteously.  He will always live to be our advocate.  What a King!

As we progress through this Advent season, may we be mindful of the radical turning point in history that occurred in Bethlehem nearly 2000 years ago.  May we, with all that we are, magnify our Lord Jesus Christ, because, he is coming again.

You have heard the Word of God.  Now consider it well.   Amen.




December 2, 2012, 12:43 PM

The Christmas Story: Joseph. Sermon Text.


Matthew 1:18-25

Joseph is the man in the Christmas Story who might be better known as the forgotten man.  This husband of Mary and the adoptive father of Jesus.  He is scarce in the Bible, appearing only briefly in the infancy and childhood narratives of Matthew and Luke.  Mark makes no mention of him and John mentions him twice in passing for his role as the father of Jesus.  Joseph doesn’t speak a single line in the Bible.

The reason for this silence may well be due to Joseph’s old age at the time; some traditions claiming that he is 91 years old when he and Mary tie the knot.  If that is indeed true, then it’s understandable how he’s fallen by the wayside.  Joseph would’ve been long gone by the time Jesus began his public ministry.

But I want to suggest that we not let forgetfulness reign when it comes to Joseph, he is important.

From Mathew's perspective -- the Gospel writer's point-of-view -- the most important thing about Joseph isn't so much about his character or his vocation as a carpenter or anything that he has done in his life.  His importance, according to Matthew, is in his family connections.  He is a blood relative of King David.  For Matthew, Joseph’s key contribution is heredity.

A few years ago, Time magazine ran a Christmas story on Joseph.  The article quoted a minister as saying that God could have chosen any man in the world to be the daddy of Jesus, but he chose Joseph.  Well, that’s not quite right because the father had to be a descendant of David, which reduces the candidacy pool drastically.

However, I think there are some other teach-ables from this forgotten man of the Christmas story.  Namely this:  This godly man provides a stellar example of what it means to live faithfully and humbly into God’s plans.

I’ll look at three areas:

1) His faithfulness

2) His godliness

3) His Steadfastness To God’s Purposes.

Let me begin with his faithfulness.

Matt. 1:18 says, Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his…Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.”

Now, guys, put yourself in Joseph’s sandals:  You’re engaged and your fiancée turns up pregnant and you know it’s not you!  I was thinking about calling this sermon, “Yeah, Right!”  The girl’s pregnant but she hasn’t been messing around, yeah, right!

Joseph could have really made some righteous indignation hay out of this.  According to the Law of Moses, he could’ve had Mary put to death (cf. Deut 22:20-24).  At the very least, he could have shamed her and her family in a public divorce (cf. Deut 24:1-4).  But, Joseph didn’t exercise either option; but, “being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.”

Everything changed when he met the angel of the Lord in a dream.  Again, put yourself in Joseph’s sandals; it takes a deep and abiding faith to believe the announcement.  "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." (1:20-21 ESV).  Matthew then reminds us that this is a fulfillment of Isaiah's Immanuel's virgin birth prophecy.

Seriously, we have the benefit of biblical-hindsight, and yet the virgin birth still proves to be a stumbling block to far too many folks.  Think about Joseph!  Yeah, right.

And one other thing while we’re talking about Joseph’s faithfulness:  Following through on this marriage was costly in that it brought about a lifetime of personal scandal.  Scripture hints at merciless rumors of hanky-panky with the birth of Jesus.  And yet, Joseph was a man of faith.  he trusted God.  he believed what the angel of the Lord told him.  He was willing to live into God's plan, no matter the cost.

Let's look now at his GODLINESS.  The Gospels present Joseph as a very devout man.  Jesus did have the benefit of having a godly earthly father.

According to some apocryphal (dubious) stories of Jesus’ childhood, we hear about Joseph admonishing a young Jesus about cursing his playmates so that they die; or on a brighter note, Jesus making clay pigeons under Joseph’s watchful eyes and then bringing them to life.

These stories are fictional; but we do know for sure that godly Joseph’s piety because his repeated trips to Jerusalem for the many religious festivals and faith observances.  Mary and Joseph were poor, but they understood what it meant to give their all to God.  Joseph was a godly man.

But there’s one final thing that I want you to know about Joseph, and that’s his steadfastness to the purposes of God.

In another heavenly dream (Matt. 2:13-15; 19-23), the angel warns "Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him." (2:13 ESV).  King Herod issues orders for every Jewish male child under two years of age.  Joseph risks life and limb to get his family out of Israel and into Egypt.  At God’s word, Joseph uproots his entire family, just like Abraham.  Again, put yourself in Joseph’s sandals!

By the time of another angelic dream, the threat is over and God calls Joseph and his family back home.  It’s significant that Matthew quotes Hosea 11:1:  “…Out of Egypt I called my son.”

My understanding is that Joseph is favorably compared to Moses:  Joseph must respond to the dangerous call of God and lead his clan out of Egypt, back into the Promised Land.  And once again, Joseph responds with steadfast faith to go back into a dangerous land with his family.  I think he does all of this because he understands that this is God’s purpose, not only for himself, but for the entire world.

My friends, as we begin our journey into Advent, can I suggest that we all seek to follow the example of Joseph?  May we all respond with faithfulness when the call comes on our lives.  May we all be diligent to preserve and nourish the faith in our families – may godliness be a priority in our families in the coming New Year.  And finally, May we all seek to be steadfast in the purposes of God, even when it might scandalize us; even when it might not be the most comfortable thing to do. Even when it might not be the safest thing to do.

I encourage you to follow the example of the forgotten man of Christmas.   Amen.




November 19, 2012, 9:51 AM

Gomer is My Name


Before we go into the Advent season, we have one Sunday where we are in between the times.  I'd like to preach a sermon from Hosea.  The book of Hosea recounts God's command to the prophet Hosea to marry a woman of harlotry.  "Yeah, I know, Hosea," says God, "She's going to be unfaithful and break your heart.  But do it anyway."

Well, there's the set up.  Until the sermon on Sunday, enjoy this Michael Card song about Gomer (and Hosea.)  If you listen to the song, you will have some idea as to where the sermon is going to go.  So, consider yourself in the know!

 

 




November 15, 2012, 9:23 AM

Semper Reformanda


Every once in a while, ...well, quite often...I come across an article that I think needs to get a wider "hearing."  Such is the case with this article from Michael Horton.  I commend it to you for serious consideration.  In our circles, this motto, "Reformed and always being reformed" is probably the most abused saying in the PC(USA).   Please do read and drink in its conclusion.

Semper Reformanda




November 14, 2012, 5:02 AM

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November 11, 2012, 12:32 PM

Sermon Text: Being the Way


Evangelism 101:  Sermon #6 of 7  Text:  1 Peter 3:8-18

REVIEW

Once again, we review where we've been and preview where we are going today.

Summary:

Why?  Just Go!Matt. 28:19  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.... (ESV)

What?  God's Love!  John 3:16  For God so loved the world.... (ESV)

Where?  Here!  1 Cor. 14:25  Worship God and declare that God is really among you. (ESV)

How?  Along the Way!  Acts 8:27a  And [Philip] rose and went. (ESV)

Last Week:

How?  Showing the Way.John 12:21“Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” (ESV)

1. Means showing enthusiasm

2. Showing does not mean having all the answers

3. Means showing personal relationship

Today, we will look at another angle of the question of How?  It is this:  Being the Way.  What does sharing the Good news of Jesus Christ require of you, personally?  By “being the way,”I want to suggest that it means that you are in the process of making the changes and adjustments in your own mind and heart that need to be made so that you will magnify and shine the light of Jesus Christ in your life.

The words that we use when we share the Gospel must be genuine.  Our lives must match our words.  Our words must resonate in our own hearts.  Jesus Christ and the life he brings is not a political point of view or a mere opinion or talking point that may or may not be right.  It is all that we have in this life.  It is our life.  So it means that in evangelism, we must in some sense of the word, be the way that we proclaim.

And so, I want to share with you three ways that we can indeed “be the way” in evangelism.

1)  Being the Way means Being Longsuffering

As I searched for an appropriate word to use here, I finally settled on longsuffering.  Accordingly, the definition of this word is "patiently bearing continual wrongs or trouble" and/or "patient endurance of pain or unhappiness."

As you heard the scripture read this morning, you were probably wondering how in the world I was going to talk about evangelism from this passage!  The context here in I Peter is one of persecution and suffering on the part of the early church.  As Peter writes this letter, the followers of Jesus are not only feeling heat from the Jewish establishment, but they are also seeing serious blowback from Rome.  Worshiping King Jesus was not the in thing to do in those days.

Peter says, even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy and it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil. (3:14-15, 17 ESV).

There is real persecution going on here.  Bad things were happening to good people.  Real pain being experienced by these early Christians.

But I am struck by Peter's concerns here.  Sure, he is concerned about the suffering, and he knows that God cares about his people; but Peter is also concerned with how God's people will respond to the tough times.  Will they yet praise God?  Will they be able to point to their tormenter's greatest need in Jesus Christ?

He says, Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.  Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called....Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? (3:8-9, 13 ESV).

After all, Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit.... (3:18 ESV).

Now to be real, Christians in the United States of America are not in quite that precarious of a situation.  However, I think there is yet application here for us.  When you share Jesus Christ, there are many more times than not that it seems as if your appeal or thoughts hit the wall of indifference and go no further.  Sometimes it feels like everything that we cherish about following the Lord Jesus is belittled in the society at large.

And yet the message from Peter is to shine brightly and persevere anyway.  I am always encouraged when I talk to ministers who've been on the beat far longer than me.  It inspires me to hear them say things like, "You know, all I want to do as a pastor is make sure that everyone who sits in the pews on a given Sunday morning understands that God in Jesus Christ died for them, and that when they stand before God one day, they will know that the only way that they can be there is because of what Jesus did for them."

Be longsuffering for the Gospel, my friends.

2)  Being the Way means Being Prepared

For this second point, I want to zero in on a particular thought in this passage.  Peter says, ...in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.... (3:15 ESV).

There is a trend within churches today and the culture at large that is, at least to me, quite alarming.  Let's call it the law of diminishing moral returns.  It goes something like this:  Our grandparents lived on the Faith that was taught to them by their parents.  Our parents lived on their Faith that was taught to them by their parents.  Our kids will live on the Faith that we teach to them.  And our kids will teach the Faith that they received from their kids.  And so on.  And as you go on down the line, the Faith gets a little diluted at each family stop.  If I were to be crass here, I would call it the dumbing-down of the Faith.

And why?  Because there is little to no investment on the part of each generation.  Each generation.  Each individual must, as Paul says to Timothy, Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. (2 Tim. 2:15 ESV).

And as Peter says here, we must always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks...for a reason for the hope that is in [us].

I remember one of my preaching labs in seminary where the professor said, "Your delivery will improve just by the sheer repetition of the exercise; but you need to study anew every week to keep it fresh."

In order to be the way, you must know the way.  In order to be the way, you have to have some sense of familiarity and facility and ownership of the Gospel.

3)  Being the Way means Being Gracious

As the final point this morning, let me finish Peter's thought in 3:15.  Verse 16, ...in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. (3:15-16 ESV).

Peter told the Christians who were being persecuted to share the Faith; to be the Faith with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience....  That way, if anyone was then going to accuse them of something; or slander the message of the Gospel, then they would rightly be put to shame.  It would be exposed and the Gospel would be proved true.

My friends, as I think about our own context again -- again, worlds away from the original context -- but every bit as necessary.  When we share the Gospel in word or deed, it must be in gentleness and respect.

The Gospel is the Good News.  It is the message of life.  It is about what God has done in the world.  It is about what God is going to do with the world.  It is a message of hope.  But this message gets lost if we grow arrogant or mean or self righteous.  It gets lost if we come across as know-it-alls.  It gets lost if we approach people as if we didn't need the message ourselves.

I like another perspective that the apostle Paul gave to the Colossian church:  Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.  Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. (Col. 4:5-6 ESV).

As we go along the way, and God opens up divine appointments along that way.  As we see those opportunities.  As we prepare for those opportunities.  Can we keep these things in mind:

1. To not only show the way to Jesus Christ; but may we also be the way in our longsuffering.  Looking past disappointments; rebuffs; and all of the other things that would discourage us from the calling of being ambassadors of the Good News.  Look, as I read the Bible, especially the NT, there is nothing that says that the Good News will necessarily be good news for everybody!

2. To begin to take ownership of the Faith that has been handed down to us.  Not being content with a belief grounded in hearsay.  Not being content to just have a passing, superficial understanding of who God is and what God is like and what God wants to do in this world.  Being prepared, in season and out of season.

3. And, to learn what it means to be gracious in sharing Jesus Christ.  Learning how to be gentle and respectful in all of our interactions.  To be a sweet aroma.  To live with the truth that all people are created in the image of God, and Jesus died for the  world and he wants the world to know that!

You have heard the Word of God, now consider it so very well.   Amen.




November 10, 2012, 8:24 AM

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November 4, 2012, 12:05 PM

Showing the Way: Sermon Text


Sermon. November 4, 2012.

Evangelism 101:  “Showing the Way” Sermon #5 of 7 John 12:20-22

REVIEW

Once again, we review where we've been and preview where we are going today.

Summary:

Why?  Just Go!  Matt. 28:19  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.... (ESV)

What?  God's Love!  John 3:16  For God so loved the world.... (ESV)

Where?  Here!  1 Cor. 14:25  Worship God and declare that God is really among you. (ESV)

How?  As you go!  Acts 8:27a  And [Philip] rose and went. (ESV)

Today:  How?  Showing as you are going

Showing as you are going.  What I am getting at today is primarily about your attitude as you go along the way sharing the Gospel.  Sometimes, the only Jesus that people will ever see is the Jesus they will see in you.  The Jesus that you show them.  The only time they will ever hear the Gospel shared is from individual Christians who will either put a positive, gracious, genuine face to the Faith or a cold, indifferent harsh spin to it.  By your attitude, you will either affirm the goodness and truthfulness of the Gospel, or you will make it out to be a lie.

Your attitude towards the Gospel shines through, whether you know it or not.  Do you believe it?  Do you try to live it out in your life?  Is it important in your everyday, ordinary life?

What we are talking about this morning is essential to evangelism.

Showing as you go along the way means that you show Jesus Christ.  It means that you show the Good News of the Gospel.  How you do it.  How you say it.

I want to illustrate this concept of showing as you go with some examples of the apostles in the Gospel of John.  The way they respond when the opportunity arises.

1.  YOU SHOW THE WAY BY YOUR ENTHUSIASM. (John 1:35-41)

...John [the Baptist] was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God!"  The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.  Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, "What are you seeking?" And they said to him, "Rabbi"..., "where are you staying?"  He said to them, "Come and you will see."  So they came and saw where he was staying... One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother.  He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, "We have found the Messiah".... (ESV).

Look at how Andrew responds when he see's Jesus.  He can't contain himself.  The sense of the text is that he rushed to tell his brother, Peter.  This was the first thing he did.  Nothing else mattered.  Nothing else took priority.  He had to share this news.

When Andrew reaches his brother, his excitement; his enthusiasm can't be contained.  "We have found the Messiah[!]"  This is it.  There ain't no other.  Can you believe it?!

As I thought about this point, the Steven Curtis Chapman song, Live Out Loud came to mind.

Think about this:  Try to keep a bird from singing after it's soared up in the sky

Give the sun a cloudless day and tell it not to shine

Think about this:  If we really have been given the gift of life that will never end

And if we have been filled with living hope, we're gonna overflow

And if God's love is burning in our hearts, we're gonna glow

Wake the neighbors

Get the word out

Come on, crank up the music, climb a mountain and shout

This is life we've been given, made to be lived out

There's just no way to keep it in...So, la, la, la, la, live out loud

Is this what you are showing as you are going along?  Does your faith in Jesus shine.  Does it overflow?

Perhaps the reason that Presbyterians have been so bad at evangelism in recent memory is that we've been taught that we must bottle it in.  That we must be reserved.  That we must be dignified.  That holiness means being low key.

2.  SHOWING THE WAY DOES NOT MEAN HAVING ALL THE ANSWERS. (John 1:43-46)

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, "Follow me."  ...Philip found Nathanael and said to him, "We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph."  Nathanael said to him, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?"  Philip said to him, "Come and see." (ESV).

I love this.  Philip, not the same Philip from last week, this is the apostle, not the deacon.  This Philip was found by Jesus.  Jesus says, "Follow me" and Philip, like Andrew, does so enthusiastically.  He gets up and he goes.  But he also finds his friend Nathanael first thing.

However, the catch is that Nathanael is a tough minded person.  He doesn't get excited easily.  He is someone who needs more than just enthusiasm to believe something.  He says snidely, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?"  Philip didn't panic.  He didn't have a crisis.  He just said, "Come and see."

When Nathanael does encounter Jesus, he finds that Jesus is indeed all he needs, and the rest is history.  That's instructive.  Far too often, we get it in our minds that in order to do effective evangelism, we need to have all the answers.  We need to be polished and professional.  And nothing could be further from the truth.  You don't need to have all the answers.  I certainly don't, and I know you don't either.

Not one person has ever been argued into the Kingdom of God.  Not one person has ever been strong-armed or cajoled or even reasoned into the Faith.  God certainly uses us to do great things, but evangelism isn't contingent upon our salesmanship or our vast grasp of the Gospel.  We need to be honest and earnest when we show the Gospel to people.  You don't have to have all the answers.

3.  YOU SHOW THE WAY TO A PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP. (John 12:20-22)

Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks.  So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus."  Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. (ESV).

This point kind of flows from the previous point in that it's not about having all the answers, but taking people to see Jesus.  The Greeks

who were in Jerusalem for Passover came to Philip and made a request:  "Sir, we wish to see Jesus."

I think it's revealing here that these Greeks didn't say anything about discussing ideas.  They weren't asking for an explanation of Jesus' philosophical basics.  They simply wanted to see Jesus.

In some of the pulpits that I've used, I have seen this verse on a plaque fastened to the pulpit.  "Sir, [Mr. Preacher], we want to see Jesus."  Meaning that, we don't want to hear about you or your thoughts; we want to see Jesus."

Christianity is not supposed to be some abstract idea that we construct reams and reams of theology around.  The Faith is not singularly about the life of the mind.  Becoming a Christian and living the Christian life is about receiving and embracing and walking with the Lord Jesus Christ.  It is about being transformed and renewed.  It is personal.

When we do evangelism, we simply are introducing people to Jesus Christ.

CONCLUSION

As you go along the way, God will provide opportunities to share the Faith.  When those opportunities come, you must be ready to show what it's all about.  That it is real.  That your calling is to point to Jesus and his Gospel, not to answer every hard question about the Faith.  And, finally, you must show that the Faith is personal.  About a personal God who sent his own Son wrapped in human flesh, to call people personally to come back to him.  To have a personal, vibrant, growing relationship with him.

You have heard the Word of God.  Now, consider it so very well.   Amen


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