Sermon for July 27, 2014
This year I have often exclaimed, out loud and to myself, while passing the flower beds as I walked up the front walk to the front door, “When did that start growing?” since the previous two summers at our house we have done more cutting of weeds and dirt than the mowing of green grass while the flowers (except for the peonies and roses) did not thrive at all.
Last spring I decided to attack the flower beds with a vengeance. I wanted to have nice clean, weed free, flower beds. So I started raking and digging. Turns out I started digging up flower bulbs! So I had to let the beds go because I was not sure what were weeds and what were flowers. It made me mad that the weeds grew, well, like weeds! Then the lack of rain caused the flowers to not grow. But the weeds? They did not care! They kept growing! This horticultural reality began to remind me of what Jesus said in Matthew 13 in the parable of the weeds about the weeds and the wheat growing together.
This spring was different with the rain though I have watered them in the past weeks because of less rain.
I did clean out the beds but…the weeds, as much as possible, continue to grow as fast as the flowers do.
Now that I have gone off on another horticultural tangent this morning (and you are asking, “What for Pastor Jim?”) here is my point for this morning:
To live a spiritually fruitful life, we have to pay attention to what is growing in our hearts – both the fruit and the weeds. But this requires of us a daily intentionality of paying attention to our motives and attitudes… and submitting them to Holy Spirit.
Our main text for this morning is part of a significant chapter about living free in Christ through the power and strength of the Holy Spirit. But I start in the middle of this fifth chapter of Galatians and read,
“For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another.
So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses.
When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
And then we read these well known verses:
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
And then another important statement,
Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.
Then our main text
Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.
And finally a very important verse called to my attention a few years ago by a pastoral colleague in a sermon:
Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.
What has struck me this week as I have prepared is that again we are walking through a chapter in which the work and mission of the Holy Spirit is being emphasized. I truly think that the Lord is trying to tell us something!
Now I want to place our main text alongside another verse which appears in the next chapter of Galatians, chapter 6 and then make some observations about paying attention to what is growing in our heart.
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.
Observation number one:
Jesus’ point in Matthew 13:29 and 30 about leaving the weeds and wheat alone is reinforced from another direction by Paul’s words in Galatians 5:17 (For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.)
In the Matthew 13 passage Jesus notes that the one responsible for putting the weeds in the wheat field is the “enemy.” “But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away.” Now who might this be?
Satan. The Evil One.
Paul and Jesus are making the same point – There is a constant and on-going battle between good and evil within everyone us with the result that our souls have both good fruit (recalling Paul’s list of the fruits) and weeds growing in them.
We are human beings who are redeemable by God’s grace and mercy through Jesus Christ. We are people created in God’s image who are loved by Him. But we are also people who are full of sinful motives and desires which causes us to feel spiritually seasick – just read James 1 to be reminded of this.
The late Keith Miller, in a devotional passage on the issue of mixed motives, wrote about a letter a mother shared with him written by her teenage daughter who was at summer camp. It began:
I’m not sure if I am being nice to these people because I like them or because I believe it will make them think I’m a neat kid. And it worries me. Should I quit being so friendly?”
Miller, speaking out of his experience as he wrestled with such things as spoke to an increasing audience of people, finally concluded:
“All I have to tell about is what I have seen and heard of Him- how He is helping me to find freedom, occasionally to love other people, and even to accept myself with my mixed motives.”
Folks, we are all conflicted people. And we will be until the day we die or Christ returns whichever occurs first. And Jesus knew that because, as we read the end of the parable of the weeds,
Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”
We live in a world in which we constantly have to choose which is going to dominate the soil of our hearts – the wheat which represents the good work of God and is also expressed in the Fruits of the Spirit or the weeds which represents the temptations Satan sends our way to keep us from growing in our faith.
So what is dominating your heart today – the wheat and the fruits or the weeds?
But there is another dimension to all of this as well and this leads me to my second observation
If we believe what Paul says about our own sowing and reaping in Galatians 6 then we need to consider our own actions and attitudes in what we are allowing to take root in our hearts. Are we sowing the fruits of the spirit or the weeds of our flawed human nature in…
… our relationships
… our attitudes
… our habits
… our decisions ?
And this question brings me to my third and final observation which involves our final text
Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.
Notice that Paul does not qualify which area of life can be left out of the Spirit’s leading. He says that in every part of life we are to follow the Spirit’s leading. How Pastor Jim? What does it look like?
First, we pay diligent attention to what we are planting in AND allowing to be planted in our hearts and what we are sowing as we go through life.
We take the time at the beginning of the day to pray for a focus on following the Spirit by inviting Him into every part of our life.
To help me, I developed the follow prayer that I trying to pray in the first hour of each day:
I give you my mind, help me to think as You would have me think.
I give you my eyes, help me to see what You would have me see.
I give you my ears, help me to hear what You would have me hear.
I give you my mouth, help me to say, eat, and drink what you would have me say, eat, and drink.
I give you my hands, help me to serve, touch, and care as You would have me serve, touch, and care.
I give you my feet, help to go where You would have me go.
I give you my heart, help me to feel, love, and believe as You would have me feel, love, and believe.
I give you my will, help me to choose and desire what You would have me choose and desire.
I give you my body, help me to honor You with it.
Holy Spirit fill me.
It has made a difference.
Second, we choose and we keep choosing to follow the Spirit’s leading in every area of our life.
We cannot go on spiritual autopilot every day, as a daily faith requires our active participation with the Spirit. When Paul writes that “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires,” he is writing about a daily choice and commitment.
So when the temptation to get angry comes flaring up and out, as it does, toward family, friends, co-workers
And when jealousy comes out of no-where because some else achieves something we wanted,
And when lust comes over us in a sudden wave because we want to possess something or someone…
We have the help of the Holy Spirit to help us turn away and walk the other direction if we choose to and ask the Holy Spirit to help us to. We have the power to say, “No!”
Finally we have a great directive, as Paul notes in Galatians 5 to NOT “use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.”
It is gets so easy to cast faith in negative terms sometimes. STOP! DON’T! NO!
Paul says use your freedom to serve one another in love. This is one of the most important ways we can walk in the Spirit – serving one another in love. Hard to do, I know, but Paul offers it up to us because, as I first read earlier “you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters.”
We have been given, though Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit a great freedom! The freedom to live free from the weeds of our sinful nature and choices! Let’s use it to do that! And also let’s do it to love one another!
My flower beds are a mess. I have not watered them in a week. The weeds have been left to their own devices. I have not tended to my flower beds and weeding and watered.
And it shows.
The same holds true for my heart and soul. I have to tend to them. I have to choose to sow what is God honoring and let the Holy Spirit do His thing.
And when I don’t, it shows.
But I want a tended heart. I want the Fruits of the Spirit to be evidenced in my life. I want to live in the freedom and power of the Holy Spirit to love you and others.
It’s time to weed and feed. Amen
The last time I read a military and political thriller involving a submarine it was a thriller about a sub named Red October ! But this time the sub is named USS Kentucky and, like the Red October she too, is a ballistic missile submarine. But instead of defecting to the other side, the Kentucky is infiltrated and sabotaged by agents of the Mossad through both human and technological means to receive the order to launch not just one or two but all of it’s 24 nuclear missiles into Iran who is just a short time away from possessing a nuclear weapon. The result is a true thriller that has more twists and turns in its plot than did Hunt for Red October which I consider to be the gold standard of military thrillers.
As the Kentucky’s CO Brad Malone and its crew struggles with their mission, elements of the US government and military, led by Christine O’Connor, the current National Security Adviser, seek to find a way to either communicate with or destroy the Kentucky. As she does, she encounters both deception and espionage in people that she works closely with and the result is an unfolding realization of not just why but who is behind the situation.
As the novel unfolds Campbell, who has a background in submarines, really tightens and twists the story in some great ways and I was truly reading faster and faster as the highly climatic ending approached. His familiarity with military tactics, procedures, and policies as well as a very good knowledge US military doctrine adds a tremendous amount of detail and depth to the plot and the characters in the story.
I really enjoyed this book for both its realism, plot, and characters. Campbell drew me in the first pages.
I rate this book as a ‘magnificent’ read!
Note: I received an advanced reader copy of this book via the Amazon Vine review program in exchange for a review. I was not required to write a positive review.
“Soon enough, nobody will remember life before the Internet. What does this unavoidable fact mean?” from chapter 1 This Kills That
I read the majority of Michael Harris’ The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We’ve Lost in a World of Constant Connection prior to trip with nearly twenty young adults and teenagers to a youth convention of nearly five thousand of them and finished it prior to an eight day vacation which I promised my wife I would refrain from getting on the computer, and thus the Internet, during both events.
I failed as I:
tweeted about the event during the event (and was encouraged to tweet)
dialogued with some people via my cell phone (a non-smart one, by the way) via Facebook private messaging,
and exchanged texts with a colleague about what faced me after my 12 day “absence.”
And Harris’ words about the lack of absence, -a state in which free time is becoming less and less experienced, were a constant reminder about his fear that the “digital natives” of this age will never experience such absence but instead be consumed by the constant demands of a smart-phone world, – served as a reminder to me of a constant battle that I, as part of what Harris calls the Before generation, the generation who remembers what life was like before the Internet, now fight.
Some might read The End of Absence and consider it a rant by someone who is too introverted or sensitive to handle the new reality of on-line life. Others might read it and think that it is a call to a new kind of digital monasticism. I don’t think so either way. Rather I think that Harris argues that intentional absences must become a part of our lives so that absence keeps us in touch with our humanity.
Divided into nine chapters, Harris uses a combination of history as he recounts the changes resulting from the Gutenberg press; current scientific research related to brain waves and malleability of the human brain to adopt to the changes current technology is causing; human resource management as he speaks with motivational speakers about how to keep technology within limits so that personal and corporate productivity is enhanced; literary criticism with the stories of how the democratization of book reviews and other once “elitist” activities are changing how people read and buy books; and the personal stories of how the digital world we now inhabit causes people such Amanda Todd to take her own life while seeking meaningful connection from this same digital world that so abused her. As such, End of Absence is a fast-paced book that weaves throughout these fields while Harris weaves in his own wrestling and journey to unplug from the digital world for one month.
I found the following chapters to challenge my thinking regarding the value and need for absence in order to think, remember, even believe in a larger context than what appears on my phone and computer screens.
Chapter 3 – Confession was thought provoking one as it addreses the issues of acceptance and how our on-line confessions are taking us away from working through “the mysteries of our own existence without reference to the demands of an often ruthless public.”
Chapter 5 – Authenticity serves as a reminder that the importance of personal experience is slowly being replaced by a digital life in which “we can maintain confident-if technically less authentic-versions of ourselves.”
Chapter 7 – Memory (The Good Error) took me back to Malcolm Gladwell’s thoughts on memory in his book Outliers as Harris suggests that “human memory” (compared to digital memory) “was never meant to call up things, after all, but rather explore the richness of exclusion, of absence.”
Harris’ book serves as a reminder to me and, he hopes (so do I), to others that the need for absence is a critical one in order for us to live a life untethered to our technology. Or, as Harris says,
“Give yourself permission to go without one weekend – without any screens you look at when you are bored… Ask yourself what might come from all those silences you’ve been filling up.”
I think Henry David Thoreau would be pleased.
I rate this book an “outstanding” read.
Note: I received an uncorrected proof of this book via the Amazon Vine program in exchange for a review. I was not required to write a positive review.
We are considering the question this morning, “Are you busy or are you hurried?” and Lucy and Ethel I think, demonstrated what it means to be hurried.
Busyness is a common word in our vocabulary and we seem to take pride in it. But what about being hurried? Is it good to be hurried?
Our text is a familiar one and it is Luke 10:38-42
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.
But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
There are two statements in our main text which need our attention and thought today. Both are observations about Martha.
Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.
“Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one.”
What is Martha distracted, worried, and upset about and why?
She is distracted by all the preparations that had to be made because it was Martha who, as we read, opened her home to him. Then the text notes that she had a sister Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.
So Martha has opened her home to Jesus. Can’t you imagine how excited she is about having Jesus at her home?
(Excitedly) “Yesss… Jesus is at my house! Yesss!!!!
(With a sudden realization of panic.) “What have I done? What have I done? Oh my good… I have got so much to do. I have nothing prepared.
Lazarus! Go wash some of the dishes! No not later, NOW!
Lazarus… do you want to end up in the grave?
And where is Mary?
Mary! MARY! (said in a loud quiet voice) Mary!
Finally Martha has had enough “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
What do you hear in Martha’s voice? Could it be frustration? Could it be self-pity? Could it be exhaustion?
Could it be something else? And I ask these questions because of how Jesus follows up Martha’s outburst. “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one.”
What does Jesus mean by “many things?” Is He referring to the many things she had to do get the meal ready? Or does Jesus notice some other things about Martha that causes Him to say this?
Is Martha busy or hurried?
John Ortberg in his book Soul Keeping makes some important distinctions between being busy and being hurried and here they are:
A full schedule
An outward condition
Reminds me I need God
Unable to be fully present
An inner condition of the soul
Causes me to be unavailable to God
I suggest this morning that with this in mind we look at Martha as being hurried and not merely busy due to the fact that she is in the presence of Jesus and is not paying attention to Him!
Think about this for a moment. Jesus is physically present inside Martha’s house- at Martha’s invitation. But Martha is not fully present for Jesus, she is unavailable to Him, she is preoccupied with something else.
And she gets angry at Mary for not helping her! I also think she gets mad at Jesus for not taking her side! “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
There are moments and there are seasons in life when busyness is the norm. There are moments and there are seasons in life when busyness drops off and life takes a slower pace.
But notice what Ortberg says about hurry, “it is an inner condition of the soul” and it is “spiritually draining.” Have you ever been tired and it is a good tired? You go to sleep and you sleep well? That’s not hurry. That’s a full and rich life where the soul is at rest.
A devotional writer of another generation Lettie Cowman, told the story of a traveler to Africa in a time when you hired locals to guide you and carry your suitcases. This particular traveler traveled quite far and well the first day and was expecting the same on the second day.
But it did not happen. Instead, they did not move at all that day and the traveler was very frustrated and asked why. She was told they had traveled too far too fast the first day and their bodies were waiting for their souls to catch up to them.
This sounds preposterous to us today doesn’t it? We don’t have what? Time to waste!
“We have a schedule to keep people!”
“We have a plan to implement and we cannot stop for “fillintheblankhere.”
“We have to keep up and stay ahead of “fillintheblankhere” because we cannot allow ourselves to get behind them.”
Hurry drains us of our sleep and inner peace. Martha was out of sorts. Jesus called her on it.
Now we not only hear about being busy but another commonly used term these days is burnout. I just wonder how much of burnout is related to hurry and not busyness. I am not sure that Martha was burning out but I think that if she kept up not just her pace but her driven-ness she was headed in that direction!
What then should Martha do?
a. Keep ranting and eventually go back to the many preparations full of resentment and anger?
b. Simply stop what she is doing and sit down and listen to Jesus?
c. Or a middle response of some kind?
What does Jesus say?
“Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Jesus is clear here. Uncomfortably clear. He holds up Mary as the example to follow in this situation. I say this situation because I want us to consider a continuum in this matter of busyness and hurry.
Where do you find yourself on this continuum?
What keeps us, what can keep us, what should keep us from going past the mid-point and into right and the far right side of the continuum?
I am going to suggest this morning a question we should ask ourselves and allow the important people to ask us as well when we are moving from left to right especially when we approach the line that takes us from being busy to being hurried.
Why am I doing this? (Why are you doing this?)
And I think we can ask a few additional questions to get at the Why.
What is your motivation for doing this? Recognition? To keep the peace? “Because somebody has to do it?” To be liked? To feel like I belong? To be accepted?
Who are you doing it for? God, self, others?
Sometimes we have do things to keep the peace and make things right because that is what we need to do. But there are other times we do the things we do, to be loved and accepted for all the wrong reasons.
Sometimes we do it for others because we want to be accepted and liked. Sometimes we do it for God for the same reason and we don’t have to. To be honest we have mixed motivations when we do things.
But the point here is that Martha invited Jesus into her home and because she more concerned about the preparation, she was crossing into the right side of that continuum and she became a hurried person. And not a person who was seeking the peaceful presence of Jesus right before her.
The story is told of a Christian Psychiatrist named Frank Lake who began working with people that were people of great vision and passion to improve the world. But when Lake found them in his office, they were bitter, cynical, and discouraged because the stresses, strains, and demands of their noble causes had gotten to them.
He consulted a well-known theologian of that day named Emil Brunner and together they studied Jesus’ life. They noted a rhythm to His life which kept Him together. Lake would call that rhythm The Cycle of Grace.
The Cycle of Grace goes acceptance, sustaining strength, significance, and then achievement.
But there is another cycle, the Cycle of Works which goes achievement, significance, sustaining strength, and then acceptance.
Which one was Mary on? Which one was Martha on?
So what does this mean for us this week?
Let me start by saying this…
When Jesus Christ came to earth to make possible the forgiveness of our sins and shortcomings, He did not wait for humanity to invite Him to come.
He came because He already loved us. He came because He wanted us back and went to the length He did to help us come home to Him! We are already significant to the Lord!
What does it say in Romans 5:8? But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
I suggest this morning that when we truly allow ourselves to be accepted by God first and then allow the sustaining strength of the Holy Spirit to operate in our lives, significance and achievement of a better kind comes along and we experience God’s peace and joy in an unhurried life.
Where are you this morning in this matter? Jesus calls us to Him and to be with Him when we are busy and when we are not.
I suggest this morning that a change from running on the cycle of works to walking in the cycle of grace starts with a heart change and not necessarily a calendar change though it may come to that! If you are having trouble hearing God is it time to slow down and listen for and to the Lord?
The Spirit filled life, I believe, is a not a hurried life. It is busy at times but it is never hurried.
Let us live such a life as a testimony and a witness that life with Christ does matter even as this concluding video points out, we are living in what seems to be a hurricane.
Listening is hard work for me.
But it is not just hard for me to.do
It is hard because of all the noise that we live in.
And by noise I mean…
the screaming calendar which requires me to be here, there, and everywhere
the screaming need of people to be heard and listen to… sometimes so loudly that listening is impossible at times
the screaming expectations of doing more and better and more and more and better and better
(I got exhausted just writing that passage!)
So much SHOUTS within and around me…
And trying to listen is just plain scary for me sometimes because the pull of making noise because “everybody wants to be heard” and “you have the right to be heard” is so overwhelming. It makes me feel like an outsider when I am not joining in the noise.
But the connections, insights, and experiences that come together when I choose to listen and keep listening no matter how hard it is to do without feeling left behind (and left out) is worth it.
Here is one example.
As I have sought to listen to and for the voice of the Spirit, I have been moved by the Spirit to speak to the issues of anger and rage in life, the building blocks of faith, hope, and love, the simplicity yet difficulty of what God’s will truly is as noted in scripture, and whether being busy is the same as being hurried. And what makes this wonderful is that I have begun to have a larger understanding AND experience of the Holy Spirit’s work in my life and see and hear it in the lives of others.
But oh how hard this is to do! The noise of life, and quite frankly even faith today, is filled with the noise of…
More! Bigger! Better!
And we all seem exhausted from it.
l Signore sia con voi!
Its travel season- summer vacation, youth group trips, summer camp, and the like – has us coming and going!
Across America, families are traveling together in planes, trains, boats, and cars.
Some of those people who are traveling will, at times, look like this.
Today is considered in some churches the Second Sunday of Pentecost and the season of Pentecost. I mention this because one of the surprises I have experienced in my recent sermons is that you can make a connection regarding the Holy Spirit’s work and ministry through all of them.
Back on May 25th the text was Acts 1:1-11 which told the story of Jesus’ ascension and His command to wait for the Holy Spirit because the disciples’ mission and work was just getting started and they needed to look forward. On June 1st we considered the parable of the sower with a look at the soil as examples of our soul conditions but were reminded of the great generosity of the sower who keeps sowing and sowing. Does not the Holy Spirit keep speaking and speaking to us today no matter what condition we are in?
Two weeks ago, we spent time looking at the tragic life of King Saul and focused on how anger and rage became the norm in his life after his disobedience to God’s command via Samuel. It was Pentecost Sunday and the point, perhaps not perfectly made, was that emotional maturity as noted in the fruits of the Spirit especially self-control, is essential in our life of faith. Saul’s life tragically illustrated the opposite of that maturity.
Last week we honored our grads and dads with a stop at 1 Corinthians 13:13 and the value of building a life of and on faith, hope, and love. And these three things are evidence of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives.
Today we are stopping at Colossians 3:1-17 and asking this question, “Doing the Will of God Means What?”
Let us hear God’s word today:
Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.
So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. Because of these sins, the anger of God is coming. You used to do these things when your life was still part of this world. But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us.
Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.
Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.
I am suggesting two things this morning about God’s will…
First, God’s will is more than just about who to marry or where to work, as important as those things are. There is more to God’s will than that. God’s will is multidimensional in the following ways:
God’s will involves both the internal and external realities of our lives. It is very, very relevant to how we live on a daily basis. It involves both how and what we feel and how we act.
God’s will involves the vertical dimension of life as it relates to our relationship and response with and to God and also the horizontal dimension as well as it relates to our relationships with others.
God’s will involve attitudinal changes as well as behavioral ones as well. How we live our lives in this manner gives indicate of a change that is needed.
My second point is this: The Holy Spirit is involved all of this. In fact the HS is the change agent and catalyst for all of this.
To do these things – to speak in a way which honors God and others; to choose to live in a way that honors God even when it is hard – these come as we allow the Holy Spirit to fill us and help us make the many changes laid out for us in this passage.
What I want to do this morning is to highlight some selective segments to illustrate these two points because to change our habits, our language, and our attitudes is a very important way to demonstrate Christ living in us.
Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.
Paul ends chapter two as follows:
You have died with Christ, and he has set you free from the spiritual powers of this world. So why do you keep on following the rules of the world, such as, “Don’t handle! Don’t taste! Don’t touch!”? Such rules are mere human teachings about things that deteriorate as we use them. These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline. But they provide no help in conquering a person’s evil desires.
In these short New Testament books which Paul is believed to have written, there is generally (generally) an issue which he needs to address and does so in the early portion of the book. For this church, in the ancient city of Colossae and located in central Turkey, Paul is concerned that a rules based faith is going to become the norm. And he points out the limitation of this approach in the last sentence of chapter two, “But they provide no help in conquering a person’s evil desires.”
Now is Paul saying, “You can do whatever you want to do?” No he is not! What I think he says is that “you need have an inner change that spreads outward and affects the way you live and the way you talk. You have to have an internal guidance system that helps you do and say the right things. And it begins with changing your mental and attitudinal mindset.” In other words, “Set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. “
The late Keith Miller tells the story of how this change of perspective alters a person’s thinking when he wrote about what happened to one of his kids as she learned to drive. He noted that when she was a passenger she could tell you where you were and how to get to where you were going. But, when she started learning to drive, she had no idea where she was! Miller said, “She was experiencing a reorientation in the same situation because of trying to focus on different elements of her environment.” Eventually Miller noted she found her way again.
This segment, the opening verses of our main text, point out what I think are the internal and external realities of our lives. Miller noted that his daughter could see both the old and the new as she drove. I think that Paul is kind of saying the same thing but with an emphasis on the internal reality of God and His Kingdom and a new way of life.
It is easy to get focused and stay focused on what goes on “outside” of us. But to live life at a deeper and better level and to live for the Lord we need to look inward with the goal of paying attention to what is going inside of us and allowing God to initiate the changes within us in the areas that Paul mentions further down in the text.
Paying more attention to the things of heaven gives us a perspective, and I think, a freedom that comes as we let go of being concerned about so many worldly issues.
Now I call our attention to the following phrases
So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you…
… now is the time to get rid of…
… Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him…
…you must clothe yourselves with…
God’s will also involves making behavioral and attitudinal changes. Our talk must be different, our actions toward one another in this congregation and outside this congregation must be different, and our attitudes must be different.
And Paul makes clear what must change:
“…put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world… now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.
We are to put on and be renewed with a new nature. This new nature is made possible through and by the work of the Holy Spirit. And we choose, and we keep choosing to cooperate with the Holy Spirit was we take off our old nature and put on our new one. As we let go of sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires; greediness; anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language, and lying.
Paul is very blunt and clear here. He is saying “If you want to live the way you have said you have wanted to live THEN you have to give up these things.” But he also says we have to put on these things:
“…tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.”
Pastor Jim, these are great things to talk about on Sunday morning. But when Monday morning comes around, you don’t know what I have to deal with!
You’re right, I don’t.
But the Lord does!
He knows everything and I mean everything to know about your Monday, and your Tuesday, and your Wednesday, and your… well you get the idea. He understands when you are pushed to the limit of your patience and you are ready to blast, either verbally or sometimes with a fist, someone who is driving you nuts. He understands the long hours because the company is not hiring and so they ask (make?) you stay longer to get the work done. But His good will for us involves becoming this kind of person and yes, it is hard to do.
God’s will involves the vertical dimension of life – that of our relationship with Him and the horizontal dimension – that of our relationship with others… on a daily basis.
To live God’s will and to be a person attempting to do God’s will, with the help of the Holy Spirit is an essential part of God’s will and purposes for each of us:
Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.
If we are not just learning to do this but actually doing this, if we are teaching and counseling and encouraging one another here then could not an argument be made that in doing just that we are able to stand strong out there because we know that others are praying and supporting us here?
Where are you struggling this morning with doing God’s will AND being God’s person? Be assured that God, through His Holy Spirit, stands ready to strengthen and help you in all of these areas of life.
Memories are big today. They are deep and long. I know that there are those who would love to have had graduation out of the way by now but as a dad… what a great Father’s Day gift!
For the past week, the family and I, as well as many of us here, have gone to numerous graduation open houses and looked at videos and pictures of the honored graduate. They are truly a walk down memory lane.
One night this past week, I decided to acquaint a certain young lady with a bit of Kane family history by going back in the home video archives to 1999. She didn’t run out of the house screaming at what she saw nor did I hear the next day of any nightmares and so I think she is okay.
We watched with amusement two young brothers play together with building blocks – the large plastic ones. One brother would build this tower on a block with wheels that would sway as it was made taller and then, in what can be describe as a rush of either adrenaline or testosterone, suddenly get up and ran at it knocking it down. The other brother was focused on two pieces with an occasion grunt and sometimes put it on the tower and then removed it with several other pieces that had attached themselves to his two blocks.
What do I say to our grads and our dads and really to all of us today? More important, what does the Lord want to say to us?
There are three words and three videos that form the basis of this message this morning. The three words are vital building blocks to life itself and a life of faith in and service to God. The videos are both illustrations and inspiration of these three words and the most important point of the sermon, “Who or what are we choosing to be our point of reference as we live our life?”
Here are the three words from I Corinthians 13:13: And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
Regarding faith, I ask our grads this morning to consider this question: Who and what are you going to place your faith in day in and day out for the rest of your life when it is easy and when it is hard?
This first video, Overcomer by Mandisa, tells the story of three famous people, Robin Roberts, TV Broadcaster; Scott Hamilton, Olympic Gold Medal Skater, and former US representative Gabrielle Giffords. All three have had their faith tested in some dramatic and life changing ways. As you watch, I want you to consider how their faith was part of how the navigated a serious and sober chapter in their lives.
These three individuals have had their faith deeply tested. I have no doubt they had to keep believing and re-believing over and over again.
You will too. When life throws a curve ball, when Satan attacks your character weaknesses, when disappointments come, your faith is going to be tested.
But your faith will also be tested in the day to day. The day to day, and you can ask any adult in this sanctuary this morning about this, the day to day can wear on you and wear you down. It will. Bills, work issues, family issues, the cat, the dog – all of it will wear on you.
But you keep believing, hope, and trusting, in the Lord. Your faith must be centered in Christ and what He has done for you. It will not (and it is not) easy at times but God IS faithful!
Be an Overcomer!
Two verses to help you here:
The father, with the sick child, expresses to Jesus what we will have to say sometimes, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Mark 9:24
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21
But to have faith, you have to have hope in something and someone.
Jesus pointedly asked in Mark 8:36: “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?”
What is your source of hope going to be?
In a cause of some kind? They come and go. Now it is okay to be a part of a cause and the greatest cause is this one – the cause of Jesus Christ. But causes lag and sag and sometimes go off in directions that you are not comfortable with.
What about a person? I think about those men and women who influenced me in my young adult life and were sources of hope. Some have passed away and the rest are in their eighties and nineties. But they pointed me to a hope that is greater than me – Jesus Christ.
Our source of hope must be in someone who can help us throughout our lives. God will send some people to help us be hopeful but ultimately it must be in Jesus Christ alone.
Some verses for you on hope:
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1
And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. Romans 5:5
Faith and hope are two vital building blocks but without love, the love of God and of people, life is colorless. Love is also a vital building block. It is a lasting building block.
Who and what are you going to choose to love? Who and what is your heart going to be attracted to for it will always be attracted to something or someone. Jesus knew this and summarized this reality when He said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
One of the most important loves of our lives is that of our family. In looking at these videos this morning we have been reminded of the importance and influence of family. But there will be another family that will come into play in the years ahead and it is the family you choose to create.
The family you choose to create after leaving High School is going to be with you and affect you for the rest of your life. Choose carefully. And after you make that choice, you have to make decisions to make your family a priority.
You will have to give things up in order to pay attention to your spouse and kids because they will need you present. Good fathering starts when they are born not when they reach middle school.
In this next video the group Sanctus Real pointedly reminds us of the value of love in family. But it is also a story about commitment because love needs to commitment to last.
Who and what we choose to love is a thread of life that affects the kind of life we will weave. The ultimate resting place of our love must be in Jesus Christ because as we love Him and allow Him to love us and to love through us, our love becomes a richer and deeper kind of love.
Here are some verses for you on love to ponder and practice:
Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Psalm 23:6
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Matthew 22:37-39
So as you end one chapter of life and begin a new one, take these three blocks with you and let God build your life and into your life with them. Keep the faith. Don’t give up!
This is a great day! This is a day of celebration! And class of 2014 we celebrate with you this day!
I conclude this message and this service with one last video.
One of the enduring images of God for many decades has been that of the lighthouse. They are still in existence and use today but this is also the age of satellite navigation or as we commonly know it, GPS. But no matter whether we think lighthouse or GPS, the question it raises is a final one I ask this morning to all of us:
“Who or what are we choosing to be our point of reference as we live our life?”
Causes and celebrities come and go.
Our health comes and goes.
Our money comes and goes.
People come and go.
School comes and goes.
The final video is from the Northern Ireland band Rend Collective and its nautical theme reminds us that life gets turbulent. But just as a lighthouse serves as a point of reference for those seeking shelter from turbulent seas so must be Christ be our point of reference as well.
Following the video the context of our main passage will appear on the screen. Let us reflect on it as it appears and then I will pronounce the benediction.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.