Knowing How to Lose Is Essential

Posted by on November 24, 2002 under Sermons

I want to begin by sharing some statements from Jesus and from Paul. I begin with statements from Jesus.

Mark 8:34-38 And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”

John 12:24-26 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.

Now consider some statements made by Paul:

Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

Philippians 3:7-11 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

On August 9, 1974, President Richard Nixon resigned from the office of the presidency. He was forced to resign, forced to leave his position of Commander-In-Chief of the United States’ powerful military. When he resigned, his transition was quiet — there was no violence, no armed struggle, no civil war.

In November of 2000 we had a national election. When the election was finally over, Al Gore won the popular vote, but George Bush won the electoral vote. For several days prior to determining the final results, there were confrontations and heated exchanges as this nation witnessed a historical event. But when the results were determined, Al Gore conceded the election and George Bush became President. And the transition was quiet. There was no violence, no armed struggle, no civil war.

We just completed a hard fought, historic national mid-term election. It was a historic mid-term election. It was close, very close. A lot was at stake in many states and in the nation. During the campaigns the head-butting was often furious and mean. That was not only true in our state. It was true in many states. Even a casual listening to the political ads might convince you that many of the candidates hated each other. But when the results were in, the transition was quiet. There was no violence, no armed struggle, no civil war.

  1. Let me ask you a question: fundamentally, what are the basic differences between a true democracy and many other forms of government?
    1. I realize there are several.
      1. I do not want to use our time this morning for a civics’ lesson.
      2. I do not intend to use our time this morning discussing the virtues of a true democracy.
    2. I do want to challenge your awareness.
      1. For a true democracy to exist anywhere in our world among any people in our world, this is essential: people have to know how to lose.
      2. A democracy cannot exist where people do not know how to lose.
      3. Where people in power are certain that losing is not an option, where people in power must win at any costs, democracy cannot exist.
  2. That is not just true of a democracy; it is also true of Christian existence.
    1. In this life, in this physical world, knowing how to lose is the foundation of Christian existence.
      1. As stupid as it might sound to some, in this physical existence Christianity achieves victory through losing.
      2. In fact, losing is the foundation of Christian maturity.
    2. Before you totally reject that idea, let me challenge you to think.
      1. At least within our culture, people know how to win.
      2. Americans do not have to learn how to win — it is not something we have to be taught. Winning is the American goal in everything we do!
        1. The objective of all the recreational games we play is winning.
        2. The objective of all the competitions we have is winning.
        3. In America, success is winning.
          1. Success in business is winning.
          2. Success in selling is winning.
          3. Success in buying is winning.
        4. And if we are not very, very careful:
          1. Success in friendship — is winning.
          2. Success in dating — is winning.
          3. Success in marriage — is winning.
          4. Success in the church — is winning.
        5. And, again, if we are not very, very careful:
          1. Our all-to-common concept for winning is controlling.
          2. “I defeat you in business by dominating you.”
          3. “I defeat you in dating by dominating you.”
          4. “I defeat you in marriage — by dominating you.”
          5. “I defeat you in the church — by dominating you.”
          6. “I must be in control because I must win!”
    3. Most of us, if not all of us, know how to win; but most of us do not know how to lose.
      1. If you want grim confirmation of that fact, take a careful look at our relationships.
      2. Two things bear grim testimony to the fact that we do not know how to lose.
        1. The first of those grim things is the state of our marriages.
        2. The second of those grim things is the state of relationships in the church.
  3. I seriously doubt that any of us begin to comprehend how indebted we are to the fact that God’s knows how to lose.
    1. Mercy exists because God knows how to lose.
    2. Grace exists because God knows how to lose.
    3. Forgiveness exists because God knows how to lose.
    4. Mercy, grace, and forgiveness are not the acts of a controlling winner.
      1. They are the attitudes of the compassionate One who knows how to lose.
      2. They are the acts of kindness of the One who knows how to lose.
  4. I seriously doubt that any of us begin to comprehend how indebted we are to the fact that Jesus knew how to lose.
    1. The life-after-death we say we want to go more than anywhere else Jesus left — for us.
    2. The life Jesus lived on earth was the life of a loser — and he lived it for us.
    3. Jesus’ ministry on earth was the ministry of a loser — but he did it for us.
    4. Jesus’ death by crucifixion combined, in his day, two ultimate acts of losing — death and crucifixion.
    5. He lost so we could be blessed.
      1. Because he lost, I can be redeemed — freed from slavery to sin.
      2. Because he lost, I can be sanctified — set apart for God and God’s use.
      3. Because he lost, I can be forgiven — my sins can be destroyed.
      4. If he had not been willing to lose and if he did not know how to lose, I could have none of these things.
  5. A definite part of the heart of Christianity is knowing how to lose.
    1. There are many things I can never be, nor can you ever be.
      1. We can never be perfect, not in relationship with God, not in relationship with Jesus, not in relationship with God’s Spirit, not with each other.
      2. We can never be sinless, not for a single moment of our lives.
      3. We can never be guiltless; at any moment in our existence, justice could rightfully destroy us.
      4. We can never have full knowledge and total understanding of God’s will and priorities; God is so far above and beyond us that we will never know or understand everything about Him.
    2. But we do not have to become those things we are incapable of being.
      1. We do not have to be perfect; we have to love.
      2. We do not have to be sinless; we have to be forgiven.
      3. We do not have to be guiltless; we have to live in God’s mercy.
      4. We do not have to possess perfect knowledge or perfect understanding; we have to be ruled by the faith that trusts God enough to become the people He wants us to be.
    3. But there is an essential reason that allows us to love, to be forgiven, to live in God’s mercy, and to be ruled by faith in God.
      1. This is the reason: God knew how to lose.
      2. We can have that love, that forgiveness, that mercy, and that faith because God knew how to lose.
  6. Knowing how to lose is the heart of:
    1. Christian love for God and for people.
    2. Christian service to God and to people.
    3. Christian compassion.
    4. Christian kindness.
    5. Christian mercy.
    6. Christian forgiveness.
    7. Christian gentleness.
    8. Christian patience.
    9. Christian self-control.
    10. Christian peace.
  7. When Christians know how to lose, they become capable through God’s strength to be a part of some special things in this world.
    1. When Christians who know how to lose are friends, their friendship is something special.
    2. When Christians who know how to lose marry, their marriage is something special.
    3. When Christians who know how to lose form congregations, the fellowship among them is something special.
    4. But those special relationships and experiences happen when they are formed by Christians who know how to lose.

I am so thankful that we can belong to a God who knows how to lose. I am so thankful that God gave us a Savior who knows how to lose. I am so thankful that God’s Spirit lives within us in spite of the fact that each of us is so weak.

Do you know how to lose? Is it evident in the way you treat people? Is it evident in the your marriage? Is it evident in the way you treat other Christians?

How long has it been since you asked God to teach you how to lose? Are you willing to lose anything necessary to the God and Savior who blesses you because they knew how to lose?

Allowing God to “Set Me Apart” for Him

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

In a letter to the church of God at Corinth, Paul wrote: To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours. (1 Corinthians 1:2)

What a strange thing to write to those Christians! Were “to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus” and “saints by calling” appropriate to the situation? After all, they had divisions (1:10); had sexual immorality in the congregation (5:1); had lawsuits among them (6:1, 2); had marriage issues (7); had fellowship issues (8); had serious worship problems (11-14); and questioned their resurrection (15).

How could Paul possibly refer to them as people “who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus” and “saints”? How could that be appropriate?

Early in the same letter, Paul wrote: But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, “LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD.” (1 Corinthians 1:30, 31)

They were in Christ Jesus by “God’s doing.” They were not in Christ because God could not do without them. They were there because they could not do without God. God was not indebted to them. They were indebted to God.

What God did for them in Christ was wisdom (God’s, not theirs), righteousness (making them just before God), sanctification (making them holy), and redemption (the act of ransoming from slavery). The wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption did not result from their achievements, but from God’s accomplishments for them in Christ.

Any honest look at those Christians blatantly screams that they had major spiritual struggles. In their confidence in their accomplishments, they were spiritual failures. They argued about meaningless things. They treated each other horribly. They engaged in ungodly competitions. They reflected God’s influence in their lives terribly.

Their Christian confidence could not be in what they did for God. Their confidence must be in what God did for them. Even though they were far less than God wished them to be, what [in His wisdom] He did for them allowed them to be the sanctified and redeemed. Did they need to grow and mature? Absolutely! However, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption would never be their rewards for perfection. Those always were the result for what God did for them in Christ.

Every Christian struggles. Struggles do not make it impossible to belong to God. A Christian grows toward what God made him or her in Christ. God’s mercy and grace in Christ are never earned, only appreciated by those who accept them.

Jesus: “It Is Always Appropriate to Do Good.”

Posted by on November 17, 2002 under Sermons

It is much too easy to make religion about us instead of about God. It is much too easy to be overwhelmed with our issues instead of God’s issues. It is much too easy to focus on our priorities instead of God’s priorities. It is much too easy to superimpose our priorities on God’s priorities and thereby consider our priorities to be God’s priorities.

Read with me Matthew 12:9-14.
Departing from there, He went into their synagogue. And a man was there whose hand was withered. And they questioned Jesus, asking, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”–so that they might accuse Him. And He said to them, “What man is there among you who has a sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will he not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable then is a man than a sheep! So then, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” Then He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand!” He stretched it out, and it was restored to normal, like the other. But the Pharisees went out and conspired against Him, as to how they might destroy Him.

  1. Long before Jesus was born one of the raging religious debates in Israel concerned what you could do and could not do on the Sabbath (Saturday).
    1. This debate had its roots in one of the ten commandments:
      Exodus 20:8-10 Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you.
      1. God commanded Israel to keep the Sabbath holy by not working on that day.
        1. Worship on this day was not the means of consecrating the day to God.
        2. Not working on this day was the means of consecrating the day to God.
      2. To make that command doable one thing is essential: what is and is not work must be defined.
        1. That was the foundation of this debate in Israel: what is the proper definition of work?
        2. One of the major disagreements the Pharisees had with Jesus was his understanding of how you keep the Sabbath day holy.
        3. We can clearly see this argument in Matthew 12:1-14 in the argument between the Pharisees and Jesus about what it was appropriate to do on a Sabbath day.
          1. The Pharisees were incensed that Jesus’ disciples were picking ripened grain growing along the path.
          2. Jesus’ response: “If you knew the meaning of this statement from scripture, you would not condemn the innocent: I (God) desire compassion, not sacrifice.”
          3. The Pharisees were incensed that Jesus healed a wither hand on the Sabbath day.
          4. Jesus’ response: “It is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”
    2. The incident we read about occurred in a synagogue.
      1. Jews went to synagogues to pray and to study scripture.
      2. Jews did not go to synagogues expecting medical treatment.
      3. Jesus attended this synagogue, and in this synagogue were some Pharisees who resented Jesus, and a man who had a useless (withered) hand.
        1. The Pharisees saw what they regarded to be an excellent opportunity to make their point and accuse Jesus of misrepresenting God’s law.
        2. We must remember that the purpose of their question was not a desire for insightful understanding, but the intent of finding an accusation that would discredit Jesus as a teacher.
        3. Their question seems innocent and insignificant to us, but it was potent because it dealt with a very sensitive, emotional matter.
        4. The question: is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?
    3. To appreciate how explosive this question was, we need some background.
      1. The Mishnah is a Jewish writing that has a section entitled Shabbath which deals with what was and was not work on a Sabbath day.
        1. The Mishnah is composed third and fourth century writings.
        2. But many of the positions reflected are considered to express views held in the first century.
      2. In Shabbath 7.2 main classes of work are divided into 39 categories.
      3. Much of Shabbath considered when certain acts were and were not permitted on the Sabbath, and procedures to doing things “lawfully” on the Sabbath.
      4. To give you some insight into the nature of the discussions, consider these:
        1. A tailor cannot carry a needle on the Sabbath, a person who wrote for a living could not carry a pen; you could not search your clothes for fleas; you could not read by lamplight; children could read but a teacher could not read (Shabbath 1.3)
        2. You could not dye an article on the Sabbath (Shabbath 1.5)
        3. You could not sell something to a person who was not a Jew unless that person could reach his home before the Sabbath began (Shabbath 1:7).
        4. You could not cook a food unless the cooking was completed before the Sabbath began (Shabbath 1.10).
        5. How you lighted the Sabbath lamp, what kinds of oil you could use, and restrictions about making a lamp burn longer were decreed (Shabbath 2).
        6. You could not put a Sabbath lamp out unless you had reason to be afraid in specific situations or you were trying to help a sick person sleep (Shabbath 2.5).
        7. There were arguments about how to cook an egg on the Sabbath and about heating water (Shabbath 3.3-6).
        8. There were rules about how to cover hot food (Shabbath 4).
        9. There were rules about what your animals could carry (Shabbath 5.1); what you could wear (Shabbath 6.2); wearing a false leg (Shabbath 6:8); what kind of knots you could tie (Shabbath 15.1,2); how much food and clothing you could save from a burning house (Shabbath 16.2 and 4).
      5. In the context of all those discussions, can a person heal someone on the Sabbath?
        1. This was the basic rule: if a person’s life was in danger, you could act to save his life.
        2. Ladies, you will be relieved to know that if a woman started giving birth, a midwife could come from anywhere, and you could tie the umbilical cord of the newborn.
    4. Jesus answered their question by asking questions.
      1. If you had a sheep and it fell in a pit on the Sabbath, are you not permitted to lift it out? [That was permitted.]
      2. Is not a person more valuable than a sheep?
      3. Doing good on the Sabbath does not violate God’s law!
      4. To emphasize his point, Jesus restored the man’s withered hand to complete health.
    5. Clearly understand the Pharisees’ objection.
      1. The objection was not that Jesus helped a man who benefitted from his help.
      2. The objection was this: the man’s life was not in danger; he had his withered hand for a while; Jesus could have and should have waited until the next day to heal his hand.
      3. The objection was not based on the fact Jesus healed the man, but on when Jesus healed the man.
    6. What Jesus did really irritated his enemies: Jesus healed the man’s hand.
      1. Please remember that their question was not a sincere inquiry.
      2. Please remember before they asked their question it was calculated to discredit Jesus.
      3. Jesus in his statements and actions drew a clear contrast between their understanding of God’s law and his understanding of God’ law: his correct understanding of God’s law resulted in compassion for suffering people that resulted in doing good.
      4. Note Jesus’ actions did not improve the Pharisees understanding of God’s law–instead they were more determined to destroy Jesus.

  2. I want to make a very simple point: a correct understanding of God’s priorities results in compassionately doing good for people.
    1. The man or woman who belongs to God recognizes God’s great concern for suffering people.
      1. God’s top priority for His people is their humble compassion.
      2. If God in humble compassion could give His son to humanity through crucifixion, people who belong to God can in humble compassion can help each other.
    2. This evening I want to challenge you to be a Christian.
      1. I want to challenge you to represent God well.
      2. I want to challenge you to do this, not because you are sinlessly perfect [none of us is!] but because you are compassionate.
    3. I am no prophet and I am not trying to play prophet–do not “read into” this statement things I do not say.
      1. My personal conviction is this: we will have opportunity to show compassion in ways we cannot even imagine.
      2. Represent our kind God well!
      3. Even in the hardest circumstances, be prepared to do good because you believe in God.

Each day as you live your life, because of your love of God and compassion for people, do good. Use your abilities to do good. Represent God well. Help people see God’s kindness through your kindness. Do not waste time and opportunity thinking about what you cannot do. Just do what you can. Always remember: it never violates God’s priorities to do good.

West-Ark Congregational Needs Analysis

Posted by on under Sermons

Link to preparatory presentation of 29 September

On Sunday, October 6, 2002, the West-Ark congregation filled out a Congregational Needs Analysis survey consisting of twenty-five questions. It was presented in a simple format that was easily completed. All adult members were requested to complete the analysis during the morning assembly in the time typically dedicated to a sermon. Provisions were made for those who wanted additional time. Provisions were also made for members not present that morning. Teens took the survey earlier in the week so they could assist in the Sunday morning process. There were four hundred and ninety-nine members who completed and turned in a survey form.

After the congregation sang praises and took communion on Sunday morning [November 17], Ron Lenderman (an elder) informally interviewed Brad Pistole and David Chadwell (two of the ministers on staff) in regard to the information collected through the analysis. The interview began by each of the three making a brief statement, then Ron asked Brad and David three questions. All three men responded to the fourth question.

The four questions were these:

  1. Why are we doing this?

  2. What did you learn that supported what you already knew?

  3. What are some things in the survey that surprised you?

  4. Where do we go from here?

By better understanding the needs and challenges spiritually confronting members of all age groups and in all situations, the elders hope to stimulate the type of congregational environment that encourages everyone’s spiritual growth and development.

After this interview, Brad Pistole encouraged people to respond to Jesus Christ.

Everyone could obtain [that morning and below] a printed analysis of the Congregational Needs Survey. Any member could obtain a complete account of the “raw numbers” by contacting the office.

How Quickly Things Change!

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

Jesus said: “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34)

Jesus gave this directive after speaking about the uselessness of anxiety. He said it was pointless to worry about tomorrow. Anxiety is counter-productive. He said life’s objective was to learn to trust God for life’s necessities as we yield personal life to our sovereign God’s rule. “Reality” in our physical world changes in the “blink of an eye.” Realities in God’s kingdom are eternal. Jesus’ directive: neither trust nor depend on “realities” that are certain to change; trust and depend on the changeless.

Each year the week before Missions’ Sunday, Joyce and I visit our parents in Crossville, TN. Joyce’s Dad is 88 and her Mom is 85. My Mom is 86. All three live in their own homes. Those two homes are separated by only four miles. (Joyce and I called those houses “home” when we were kids). Usually we also have opportunity to see my only brother and sister-in-law, their children, and some of Joyce’s cousins and aunts. We visited Crossville last week.

This morning we learned several tornadoes touched down in that area. Then we learned these storms touched down in the vicinity of our families. After confirming our immediate families and their homes were okay, we learned all of them lost electrical service, most of them lost telephone service, and so many trees were down that some of them could not get out of their driveways.

While their homes had no damage, some of their neighbors’ homes were severely damaged. My sister-in-law’s comment was, “We will never live long enough for Pigeon Ridge Road to look the same.” [That is right: Pigeon Ridge Road. I grew up on Grassy Cove Road with Turkey Oak Road behind me. My brother lives on Coon Hollow Road. Joyce is prestigious — she grew up on Wells Road, and she is a Wells!]

How strange to realize places so familiar to us, places robed in fall beauty just last week, are now scenes of a disaster that produced fatalities and destruction. What seemed so secure only a week ago is now damaged or destroyed because uninvited circular winds blew. The security produced by electrical power, telephones, and road access was imprisoned by circular winds and uprooted trees.

Electrical power will flow again. Telephones will ring again. Driveways will be cleared. Damaged houses will be repaired. Many destroyed houses will be rebuilt. And the uprooted trees? For years uprooted trees grimly will testify to the insecurity of trusting in the unreliable.

What happens to you when powerful winds blow within? What happens when the rains descend, the floods come, the winds blow, and burst against your life? Does it stand or collapse? (Matthew 7:24-27) Does trusting the wrong things imprison you? Does trusting God transform your insecurity to security?

May the Joy Shine!

Posted by on November 3, 2002 under Sermons

This evening I want to begin with a very familiar reading found in Matthew 11:25-30. Please read with me.

Matthew 11:25-30 At that time Jesus said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight. All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

  1. Note that these verses are a prayer that Jesus prayed.
  2. Note the writer sets the general context of the prayer with the words “at that time.”
  3. Note his prayer focused on two desires Jesus had:
    1. His desire to praise God for a specific reason.
    2. His desire to help people.

  1. I want to begin by calling your attention to the context of this prayer.
    1. To me the broad context began in chapter 9 when Jesus did some incredible things to help struggling people who seemed beyond help.
      1. He healed a man who was paralyzed and forgave his sins.
      2. He invited Matthew, one of those despised tax collectors, to be his disciple.
      3. He attended a banquet honoring people who were tax collectors and sinners.
      4. He affirmed his compassion for the struggling.
      5. He raised a girl from the dead.
      6. He healed two blind men who believed in him.
      7. He cast a demon out of a man.
      8. And he concluded all this activity with this statement:
        Matthew 9:37,38 Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”
    2. Then in chapter 10 Jesus commissioned his 12 disciples to go out into the harvest.
      1. He first gave them authority over unclean spirits and the power to perform all kinds of healing,
      2. He told them how they were to go.
      3. In no uncertain terms, he told them that they would encounter a lot of opposition and have a difficult time.
    3. Chapter 11 began by stating that after Jesus send the twelve out, he went on a preaching and teaching tour.
      1. As he was on his tour, several things happened.
      2. The imprisoned John sent some of his disciples to ask Jesus if he was the one John was to present to the people.
      3. Jesus used scripture from Isaiah 35:5 following and 61:1 for his answer:
        Matthew 11:4-6 Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me.”
        1. Then Jesus affirmed John was sent by God with one of the greatest missions God ever gave any person.
        2. He condemned some people for witnessing his great power and not listening to him.
        3. Then he prayed the prayer we read as we began.
    4. To me, the general context continues through at least the incident in chapter 12 when he is accused of violating the Sabbath.

  2. Now I ask you to give specific attention to the prayer itself.
    1. First, I call your attention to Jesus’ praise of God.
      1. On this occasion, for what specifically did Jesus praise God?
        1. For hiding what God was doing [among God’s people!] from the wise and intelligent–in general context, I would conclude from the religiously ‘well-informed’ [the religious authorities] in Israel, those who people thought were really connected to scripture and God’s thoughts.
        2. For revealing what He was doing to babes–in general context, the outcast and struggling [those who humbly trusted God’s work in Jesus], those that the religious community did not consider to have an understanding of God’s ways or will.
        3. Jesus said it was doing this that made God happy.
        4. Then Jesus affirmed the special relationship that he and God had.
      2. In complete agreement with his praising God for hiding what God was doing from the wise and intelligent and revealing it to babes, Jesus issued an astounding invitation.
      3. Who is invited to come to Jesus?
        1. The weary.
        2. The burdened.
      4. What did he promise them?
        1. He promised he would give them rest.
      5. To get his promised rest, what did they need to do?
        1. Wear his yoke.
        2. Let him be their teacher.
      6. Why could he give them rest?
        1. Because he is gentle.
        2. Because he is humble in heart.
      7. How can they wear his yoke and find rest for their souls?
        1. His yoke is pleasant to wear.
        2. His load is light.
    2. Much of the time I feel a deep sense of sadness and grief.
      1. I grieve when I am reminded of how easily we miss God’s concerns and purposes.
      2. I grieve when I see how easy it is to be committed to a system instead of being committed to a Savior.
      3. I grieve when I see how easy it is to replace devotion to God with defense of a movement.
      4. I grieve when I see how easy it is to follow rules instead of being devoted to discipleship.
      5. I grieve when I see how easy it is to love sin instead of fleeing from sin.
      6. I grieve when I see how easily we allow our lives, minds, and hearts to be a mess.
      7. I grieve when I struggle to keep from eating too much and think about the millions of people who live with hunger every day.
      8. I grieve when I take my medications and realize how many people in the world will never have the option to be healthy.
      9. I grieve when I see how much hate there is.
      10. I grieve when I see how much struggle there is.
      11. I grieve when I see how much hurt there is.
    3. And then I realize that if I am to praise my God as He should be praised, if I am to represent Him to others as he deserves to be represented, there must be joy in my sorrow.
      1. I must help people see the joy of a God who cares.
      2. I must help people see God’s joy in Jesus’ death and resurrection.
      3. I must help people see the joy found in a perfect Savior who perfectly addresses our eternal needs.
      4. I must help people see the joy found in trusting what God did in Jesus Christ.
      5. I must help people see the joy found in knowing that our repentance thrills God.
      6. I must help people see the joy found in God’s continuing forgiveness.
      7. I must help people see the joy of belonging to the God who wants to help us with our failures.
    4. If I help people see the joy, my life must reflect the joy.

As you live this week, reflect God’s joy. God did not call us to declare that if we belong to Him He will give us our heart’s desire in our physical desires. God called us to declare that He can care for those things that really matter, matter eternally.

God gave us Jesus. Jesus will not destroy our burdens. Jesus will carry our burdens. In that there is the joy of life.

Grieve about those thing that break God’s heart. Rejoice in God’s love and salvation.

Fresh Insights From an Old Story

Posted by on under Sermons

This morning I want to tell you an old story, but a true story, about twin brothers and their descendants.

  1. These twin boys engaged in a sibling rivalry that was so intense it would make any set of parents thrilled NOT to have these two boys as their sons.
    1. The hostile rivalry between these two boys began before they were born.
      1. They struggled against each other as unborn babies with such intensity that before birth their mother wondered what was happening.
        1. She wondered: If they cannot get along with each other before birth, why am I pregnant?”
        2. She was so concerned about what was happening in her before birth that she asked God to explain what was taking place.
      2. This is the response God gave her:
        Genesis 25:23 The Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your womb; And two peoples will be separated from your body; And one people shall be stronger than the other; And the older shall serve the younger.”
    2. We are not told anything about the boys’ childhood, but the things that happened when they were either teens or men make it impossible for me to imagine that it was good times and experiences.
      1. From the moment of birth, two things were obvious: first, the boys were born in conflict, and second they were very different.
        1. The first to be born was Esau, but his brother Jacob was holding Esau’s heel even as they were born.
        2. So Jacob was named “the heel catcher” which was not a good name–it meant someone who deceived.
        3. At birth Esau was hairy all over with a reddish complexion.
        4. That hairiness continued into manhood as a distinguishing difference between Esau and Jacob.
      2. These twin boys grew to be completely different men.
        1. Esau was an outdoors man, a hunter and an adventurer.
        2. The word used to describe Jacob meant “complete.”
        3. To make the situation even worse, the father [Isaac] was clearly partial to Esau and the mother [Rebecca] was partial to Jacob (Genesis 25:28).
          1. The parents’ favoritism and partiality made a bad situation worse.
          2. Instead of the twins growing closer together, they grew further apart.
      3. Their competition with each other grew to be just plain hatred when Jacob deliberately took advantage of Esau and then later stole from Esau.
        1. After a calculating Jacob used deception of his father to steal the family blessing from Esau, Esau planned to kill Jacob when their Dad died.
        2. I do not believe it is any exaggeration to say these two men hated each other.

  2. The descendants of Esau became the nation of Edom, and the descendants of Jacob became the nation of Israel.
    1. Generations later the nation of Israel was delivered from Egyptian slavery by God under Moses’ leadership.
      1. As the people of Israel were in the wilderness, God gave them this instruction:
        Deuteronomy 2:4,5 “You will pass through the territory of your brothers the sons of Esau who live in Seir; and they will be afraid of you. So be very careful; do not provoke them, for I will not give you any of their land, even as little as a footstep because I have given Mount Seir to Esau as a possession.”
      2. I find this a very insightful, interesting statement from God.
        1. Long before God gave Canaan to Israel as its land, God gave the territory of Edom to Esau’s descendants.
        2. These people were the blood descendants of Jacob’s family–they were his twin brother’s people.
        3. Because God gave them their land, because they were descendants of Jacob’s twin brother, Israel was not to take one inch of the land.
    2. There are several striking contrasts:
      1. The descendants of Esau settled on a land given them by God long before the descendants of Jacob lived in Canaan.
      2. The descendants of Esau had kings long before the descendants of Jacob had kings.
      3. Israel was to show respect for the Edomites and their land because they were descendants of Jacob’s twin brother.
    3. There is also a striking similarity between the problem that existed between Jacob and Esau.
      1. Even though God told Israel to be careful and to show respect to the Edomites, in future generations Edom and Israel hated each other.
      2. As Israel lived in Canaan for a long time, there are numerous incidents of conflict between Israel and Edom.

  3. Hundreds of years after Israel lived in Canaan, after lots and lots of conflict, the prophet Obadiah gave a brief prophecy to the Edomites. I want you to consider just a few verses of Obadiah’s prophecy:
    Obadiah 10-14 “Because of violence to your brother Jacob, You will be covered with shame, And you will be cut off forever. On the day that you stood aloof, On the day that strangers carried off his wealth, And foreigners entered his gate And cast lots for Jerusalem–You too were as one of them. Do not gloat over your brother’s day, The day of his misfortune. And do not rejoice over the sons of Judah In the day of their destruction; Yes, do not boast In the day of their distress. Do not enter the gate of My people In the day of their disaster. Yes, you, do not gloat over their calamity In the day of their disaster. And do not loot their wealth In the day of their disaster. Do not stand at the fork of the road To cut down their fugitives; And do not imprison their survivors In the day of their distress.”
    1. This prophecy was given by Obadiah likely at the time that Judah was destroyed by the Babylonians.
    2. There had been a long, long history of hate between Israel and Edom, a hatred that dated all the way back to the lack of respect Jacob and Esau had for each other.
      1. The territory that Edom occupied was very mountainous and shared a common border with the tribe of Judah.
      2. When Jerusalem fell to a foreign army, Edom had a ring side seat, and they were delighted to see Israel “get theirs.”
      3. Because their territory was protected by its mountains, they felt very safe as they gloated over the disaster that was consuming Israel.
        1. They were happy to see Israel enduring so much humiliation and suffering.
        2. Nothing was too bad for Israel!
    3. God gave them some serious warnings and a horrible promise because Israel was their brothers.
      1. Warnings:
        1. Do not gloat over Israel’s sufferings.
        2. Do not loot Jerusalem after the enemy leaves.
        3. Do not kill Israel’s refuges who are fleeing.
        4. Do not imprison Israel’s survivors.
      2. The promise:
        1. I, God, promise you that because of your attitude toward Israel in her time of disaster, I will destroy you.
        2. You will be covered with shame and cut off forever.
    4. “Explain all that.” I cannot.
      1. “Was not God upset with Israel?” Yes.
      2. “Was not Israel suffering because they had not followed God?” Yes.
      3. “Did not God, by his specific promise, let this happen to Israel?” Yes.
      4. “Why is God so upset with Edom when Israel has been so wicked?” Edom’s attitude was everything God did not want it to be.
      5. God held Edom responsible for her attitude toward Israel.
    5. I see a basic truth: God’s decisions do not justify a wicked attitude toward other people.

  4. When we have been blessed by God, it must change the way we look at other people.
    1. That is basic to godly existence.
      1. We never try to play the role of God.
      2. We always understand that we are people blessed by God.
    2. God has not given us a license to hate other people.
      1. Our world is filled with hate.
      2. Our world is filled with people who hate people.
      3. God did not ask us to hate, but to love.
    3. That is a fundamental contrast between people who belong to God and people who do not.
      1. People who belong to God love other people, even if other people hate them.
      2. People who do not belong to God feel justified in hating people who hate them.
      3. You doubt the contrast? Consider these statements:
        Matthew 5:11,12 Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
        1 Corinthians 13:4-8 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

There is a fundamental contrast in the man or woman who belongs to God through Jesus Christ and the man or woman who rejects God. The person who belongs to God has some basic understandings about life and people. (1) Understanding # 1: “I do not belong to this world–life is not measured by physical possessions or accomplishments. (2) Understanding # 2: “Everything I have available to me is a gift from God.” (3) Understanding # 3: “In all I have and all I use, I must act as God’s caretaker. It is not mine. It is His. I just briefly manage it for Him.”

God asks us to love all people throughout the world. I urge you to be a good manager for God. I urge you to care about what happens to people. I urge you to never forget that the greatest gift God has given you is the crucified, resurrected Jesus as a Savior.