Sunday Morning Sermon Homily for August 1, 2010

Hosea 11:1-11 His Nature, Our Need

On April 9th, 2010 Torry Ann Hansen did something that shocked many of us and created an international incident. On that date she put Artytom Savelyev, a 7 year-old boy she had adopted, on a flight to Russia by himself with the following note: “I no longer want to parent this child. He is violent and has severe psychopathic issues/behavior.”

Why would someone do this? I know no one can look inside another person’s heart to judge their motives except God, but this to me is shocking. I am sure in her mind she felt justified in doing what she did. Still, she he had made a choice to become a mother, a parent to this child, but for whatever reason, she then made the decision to not fulfill the commitment she had made. She chose to abandon him.

In today’s passage, God is speaking about his relationship with the people He has chosen, the nation that had begun with Abraham. In this passage, God is speaking about his love for His people and how in spite of his love, they had pulled away from Him. God had every reason to change His mind, to not fulfill the commitment God had made, but this is not the way God works. God does not abandon his adopted children.

This passage provides insight into the history out of which our faith comes. This passage has two very valuable lessons to teach us. The first lesson has to do with the nature of God. It teaches us God is not capricious in His choices nor can His commitment be frustrated by our flaws and failures.

Secondly, it is a lesson about the challenge we as human beings face from our own rebellious nature and how that nature brings us sorrow and suffering in spite of God’s deep love and desire to hold us near to His heart. Even the perfect parent, God, has children who can go down the wrong path. Even God, in his perfect love, has adopted children, who have severe issues and bad behavior.

There is a proverb which states, “No one can hurt you more than someone you love.” Any parent who has lived through the ordeal of a rebellious child can attest to the truth of this statement. Sometimes, no matter how much love is given, no matter how supportive, nurturing, guiding, discipline and care is provided, a child still can make one destructive choice after another and not seem to care how much they hurt their parents.

God had called his people out of slavery. He had delivered them from enemies who would have shown them no mercy. He had protected them. He had provided for them. He placed them near his heart. What did he get in return? They had moved away from him. They had turned to false Gods, sacrificed to idols and worshipped the powers and principalities which did not care about them and only viewed them with contempt and as instruments to try and hurt God.

What is our reaction when we are ignored, insulted, betrayed, or belittled? How do we respond to ingratitude, insincerity, or infidelity? If you have ever been hurt by an unfaithful friend, unfaithful spouse, or any unfaithful, uncaring relationship you know how it hurts. Even if it has not happened to you I am sure most of your have known someone who has had to deal with this. It is not right. It takes an extra-ordinary person just to get past the desire to strike out, to get back, and even more incredibly strong person to completely forgive and forget. God takes it further than that. God still loves his people. He still has the desire to bless. This is the nature of our Lord. This is what it means to enter His covenant. This is his promise to those whom He calls.

The writer of Hebrews tells us: Hebrews 6:13-18 When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, saying, “I will surely bless you and give you many descendants.” And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised. Men swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument. Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged (NIV). God does not lie and His nature does not change. He has made a commitment and he sticks to it.

This nature, God’s nature, His deep love for humanity is magnified even more in while he calls humanity to be his adopted sons, he was willing to send his own Son to be an atonement for our failures, for our sins. Again, I quote the Scripture: Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (NIV). However, God will not force his will, his nature on us. In this the image of God we possess is demonstrated. We have a choice.

Learning the limitation of our ability to make good choices is comes with patience, endurance, and commitment. The people to whom Hosea speaks had the witness of God preserving the covenant. They had the experiential evidence of verse 4. Still, they chose to rebel, they chose to do it their own way. They would not change direction (what the word repent means) but continued to pull away from God. Folks, if you pull away from God he will let you experience the consequences of your own choices. The consequence might not be immediate, but they will come. With each act of rebellion, with each choice made for the world, our lives become emptier and darker. We might try to avoid admitting this through denial, drugs, depravity, or all kinds of other self-deceptions but eventually the consequences will come.

Today, we have an even greater accountability. The people of Hosea’s day had to look forward for the ultimate revelation of God’s love in the promise of the Messiah. We have the advantage of knowing God incarnate has come. We have the advantage of being indwelt by the Holy Spirit, if we move away from God; we can expect an even greater judgment.

In verses 5 and 6 God reminds us the trouble we get ourselves into. He reminds us there are those out there who are bad and will take advantage, will enslave and abuse. Is this what they want?

The second thing this passage teaches us is that we bring much of our sorrow upon ourselves. We also have a sin nature, even if we have Jesus as our Savior. If we are not growing in our reliance on His instruction we will be growing in our own rebellion. Look at verse 7. God will not exalt us in our rebelliousness; God only exalts us in Jesus, in our faithfulness to Him. When we exalt Jesus in our lives (not just with our mouths) we will be exalted. This world exalts itself; this is what the people of Hosea’s day did. We need to learn and not repeat this mistake. Matthew 23:12 For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted (NIV).

It amazes me how people can get themselves into trouble, how people can depend upon a casual, cultural idea of faith, and then expect God to get them out of it. It amazes me how people come to church because they want God to do something for them even though the rest of the time they live for themselves. I have folks walk in all the time expecting the church to give them money or help them in some manner not because they are part of the family of faith but because they believe this is what we are supposed to do. It is not. Folks the church is supposed to be a family of faith that takes care of one another. If you look at Scripture it clearly states that they will know we are Christian by our love for one another. The promise of God is to take care of his own when his own are faithful. However, we are not to be supportive of activities of those who have turned away from God. And what is really sad, is that people can become so self-centered, so self-righteous, so filled with pseudo-piety that they don’t even understand the warnings that God gives through his word. Israel didn’t and they paid a dear price. It was not God’s fault, but their own rebelliousness. Today, in a country in which religious freedom and opportunity allowed God’s people to escape the tyranny of the religious corruption of the Western culture, we have not learned.

People really can become like the young boy who was getting bad grades in school. One day he surprised the teacher with an announcement. He tapped her on the shoulder and said, “I don’t want to scare you, but my daddy says if I don’t start getting better grades (pause) somebody is going to get a spanking!”

God has make it clear: Hebrews 12:5-11 And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son. Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (NIV)”

Once again, those who have been called of God have taken God’s love, his tender care, his spiritual guidance, his calling and commission for granted, have gotten themselves into trouble. We don’t need more churches. We don’t need more programs, or religious products. We need to turn to Jesus. We need to follow the path he has given. We need to learn from the errors we are warned about in the Scripture. We need repentance; we need to again become committed to being disciples. We need to awaken to the end we are heading toward. Time is moving toward a moment. Verses 8-11 tell us what God is going to do. He will rise up a remnant. He will bring the faithful to himself. Those who fear the Lord will come trembling to his promise. Those who fear the Lord will be settled in His peace. God’s nature is to love us, adopt us, and build us up. He will never leave us or forsake us, but he will not force us. Our nature is one of need for His love. When we are not seeking Him we will be moving toward suffering and sorrow. It is a task we need to be reminded of daily. What choice will you make today?

Sunday Morning Sermon July 25, 2010 Homily

Colossians 2: 6-15 God, Church, and the World

Folks, you are to be commended. You have chosen to take a stand against the cultural convenience embraced by more and more people. You have chosen to spend a precious hour of your life in an ancient practice, a liturgical practice. That word, liturgical, comes from the word liturgy meaning “the work of the people”. And you thought you just came to church.

What work are we doing, pastor? You are doing the work of choosing God; the work of praying, of singing, of giving, and of listening as this sermon is preached. Wow, how is this work? And, if it is work, are we going to get paid? Well, I certainly hope you do get paid; it just will not be with that which can be swindled, counterfeited, stolen, or lost as any payment this world gives us can be. If you do the work, you will be paid with something much more valuable.

And how it this work, you ask? It does not feel like work (well maybe listening to the preacher is). Ah, but remember what Jesus said: Matthew 11:29-30 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 (NIV). We are gathered here in this church not to be entertained. We are gathered not for what we can get. We are gathered to obey the command of this passage. We are here to continue (literally, to walk) to live in Him; Jesus our Lord. This is the yoke that binds us, the burden we are to carry.

You could be doing something else. You could be having a lot more fun. I am sure most of you have a lot to do. You could be spending this time getting those things done. But instead you chose to come here. You could be watching a sporting event on TV. You could be shopping. You could have slept in, or taken a trip somewhere, but instead you are here. Why? Hopefully because deep down inside you know this is what you are supposed to do.

A young boy whose family attended church regularly announced to his mother, “Mom, I’ve decided to become a minister when I grow up.”
“That’s okay with us son, but what made you decide that?”
“Well,” said the little boy, “I have to go to church on Sunday anyway, and I figure it will be more fun to stand up and yell, than to sit and listen.”

The church, the called out people of God, are instructed to gather. We are to gather and pray, gather and sing, gather to listen and learn from the Word of God. This gathering is what allows us to continue to follow God. We cannot be faithful unless we gather. We cannot be rooted, built up, and strengthened unless we do. The church is the body of Christ. It is how we continue to walk with Him. It is in the church that we are prepared for the service needed and discipline demanded if we are to someday here those words, “Well done, faithful servant,” spoken to us by Jesus himself. It is the church and our making a commitment to it that we demonstrate our thankfulness. We gather to remember. We gather to celebrate. There is nothing my hypocritical than thankless Christianity. Nothing more insulting to God than to take what he has done for us for granted. Jesus died on the cross and rose from the grave for the church. Grace is God’s gift to that saves us. Our salvation joins us to Jesus. We are His presence, His physical body here on the Earth. Paul writes: Colossians 1:24 Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church (NIV). It is a blatant self deception; an egotist illusion to think one can overflow with thankfulness for what Jesus did and not be active and serving in a local church. It is a lie, an effective lie promoted by evil. You are not a church by yourself. By ourselves, we will become victims not victors; by ourselves we will be captives not conquerors. Folks it God’s will that we be conquerors: Romans 8:37-39 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (NIV).

This brings us to the next truth this passage warns us about in verse 8 (Colossians 2:8  See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ).  We are in a war, a spiritual war, a battle for our minds. Paul warns us to not be taken captive. Not to be taken captive by the arrogance and the ignorance of our age. What does this mean? Folks, I cannot even begin to tell you how the Western church has already given in to the world because we did not give this warning serious attention. I could talk about the loss of moral values even to the point of accepting things God says he hates. I could cite examples of rampant materialism, consumerism, secularism, practical atheism, and religious liberalism in the church all day long. The church of Jesus Christ in all its denominational forms is in serious decline. We have been taken captive by the world.

When the church does not do what Jesus told us to do, what the Scripture tells us to do, it is like a soldier that does not follow the orders he is given in combat. The result is disorganization that then enemy will use to their advantage. We are called to be disciples of Jesus. Jesus gave us our orders as he ascended into heaven. Matthew 28:18-20 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”(NIV)

Here in lies the crisis, we are failing to make disciples. We have turned our churches into markets for cheap grace. We have made church about us rather than about him. We tell people how important it is to understand that Jesus came to save us. We tell people ask Jesus to forgive you of you sin, how important it is to be born again, but we fail to help them in their new birth to understand Jesus came to rescue us from an enemy who wants to destroy us. We fail to focus on doing what Jesus did, preparing his disciple for spiritual combat. He sent his disciples out to reach out to others. He taught them how to put God first. He preached, taught, modeled, mentored, and them in commitment, courage and confidence.

After WW2, a Japanese general was asked why Japan attacked the US. His response was, “We did not think the US had the will to fight. You did not fortify you bases. You barely passed the draft, and your military forces were ill-equipped. Folks, do we have the will to fight? Do we really understand what Jesus did for us? Do we really grasp what he has called us to be and do? Do we really believe that if someone dies without Jesus they will go to Hell? Do we understand we will be called to give an account? Do we really believe this? If we do, why are we not training? Why are we not working? Why are not more serving? Where does it say in Scripture, others will do this so I don’t? Where does it say we don’t need to make disciples, we don’t need to train? Where does it say, we don’t need to gather as often? We don’t need to study the Scripture, others will do these things.

Paul tells us our focus needs to be on Jesus. He tells us Jesus has shown us God in bodily form. Jesus has given us His fullness. He prevailed over evil. He defeated the powers and principalities and we are to do so as well. Look at verse 15 (Colossians 2:15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross-NIV). He took their power away. He disarmed them. He made a spectacle of them. He conquered death. He rose from the grave and has called us to follow him. He has sent his Holy Spirit to indwell us and gives us spiritual gifts which enable us to win in the battle of life. If this is so, why are we being defeated? Why does it seem we are losing the war?

There is a children’s poem called for want of a nail. For want of a nail the shoe was lost, for want of a shoe the horse was lost. For want of a horse the rider was lost, for want of a rider the battle was lost. For want of a battle the war was lost, for want of a war the kingdom was lost.

For want of the Word, a witness was lost. For want of a witness, a soul was lost. For want of a soul, a generation was lost. For want of a generation, the church was lost. For want of a church, Jesus weeps. Look at verse 13. God made us alive in Jesus. We only live by continuing in Him.

The reason the church has grown so weak, so watered down, so whipped, is because we have not continued to live in him. We have turned the church into a social club at its best and a servant of the world at its worst. But this can change.

Sometimes your biggest weakness can become your biggest strength. Take, for example, the story of one 10-year-old boy who decided to study judo despite the fact that he had lost his left arm in a devastating car accident.

The boy began lessons with an old Japanese judo master. The boy was doing well, so he couldn’t understand why, after three months of training the master had taught him only one move.

“Sensei,” the boy finally said, “Shouldn’t I be learning more moves?”

“This is the only move you know, but this is the only move you’ll ever need to know,” the sensei replied.

Not quite understanding, but believing in his teacher, the boy kept training. Several months later, the sensei took the boy to his first tournament. Surprising himself, the boy easily won his first two matches. The third match proved to be more difficult, but after some time, his opponent became impatient and charged; the boy deftly used his one move to win the match. Still amazed by his success, the boy was now in the finals. This time, his opponent was bigger, stronger, and more experienced. For a while, the boy appeared to be overmatched. Concerned that the boy might get hurt, the referee called a time-out. He was about to stop the match when the sensei intervened.
“No,” the sensei insisted, “Let him continue.”

Soon after the match resumed, his opponent made a critical mistake: he dropped his guard. Instantly, the boy used his move to pin him. The boy had won the match and the tournament. He was the champion.

On the way home, the boy and sensei reviewed every move in each and every match. Then the boy summoned the courage to ask what was really on his mind.

“Sensei, how did I win the tournament with only one move?”

“You won for two reasons,” the sensei answered. “First, you’ve almost mastered one of the most difficult throws in all of judo. And second, the only known defense for that move is for your opponent to grab your left arm.”

The boy’s biggest weakness had become his biggest strength.

In our weakness, Jesus brings us strength. The only thing we need to bring change to our world, to be the over comers Jesus wants us to be is for us to focus on Him, make our commitment to Him, to continue to live in Him. No one can make this decision for you. What will you decide?

Sunday Morning Sermon

Mineral Wells has had several acts of evil in a short period of time.  These acts were not natural disasters but heinous crimes and injustices.  Tomorrow’s sermon will speak to this issue.  I will return posting sermon’s based on the Scripture passages from the lectionary next week.

Thank you for visiting this site.

Sunday Morning Sermon July 11, 2010

Psalm 82     Remembering the First Temptation

In the book of Genesis, we are told of joy and happiness intended for human life. We were fashioned from dust to carry the divine image within. Adam and Eve walked in the garden with God. Their work was pleasure and state was innocent. It was a relationship and reality founded upon God’s love for the being He had made. We could give God the one thing He could not give Himself, our free will to love Him.

Then came the fateful event. Another creation, who had been made for service and succumbed to power, a principality that seems to tempt every sentient creation of God, an angel who had wanted to take God’s place, decided to try and destroy this being God so loved knowing this would hurt the heart of God. The tool he chose to use was the same one which caused his downfall. He would tempt the two to seek that place which belonged to God. He would focus on the woman, because the man had the responsibility for her. If the woman could be coaxed into the sin of commission, the man would be guilty of the sin of omission. Either way, the relationship between them would become one of blame and shame, or ignorance and arrogance. We know that the serpent, Satan, the author of lies and creator of evil was successful. His temptation, “You will be as gods, knowing right from wrong” was the hook and it held. Ever since that time, human beings have been following that same deceptive path of ignorance and arrogance as we act as our own gods, deciding what is good and evil.

Psalm 82 is a strange psalm. It makes a person who has been taught that the Lord God is one take a second look. Note the first verse. What does it mean, “He gives judgment among the gods”. And then in verse 6, the Psalmist records, “You are gods”. What is going on here? The Hebrew word used here is elohim (Hebrew for god). It is the same word used in the first commandment, Exodus 20:2-3 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.” This word is frequently used throughout the Old Testament. Often it is easy to see God is speaking about the creation of false gods or idols or giving the powers and principalities we struggle against the same status as God.

But what about the way the word elohim is used in this Psalm? Some interpret the word in this passage to refer to the tribal gods of the people who surrounded Israel. Others apply the word to angels. Still others think it refers to the rules of the nations which surround Israel. However, each of these interpretations create some difficult theological problems.

If there are other gods, like the God we are called to solely worship, how can we know He is the right God? More than one God changes the meaning of what the term means. If God is just another sentient being, although a very powerful sentient being, if He is in competition with other powerful sentient beings, who is to say he is the best? The term God, better yet Yahweh, to a monotheistic faith, means THE GOD, there is no other God. He is absolute, the beginning and the end of all things. Existence of everything is because He chooses and is held together by and through Him; everything is under His sovereignty and control. To be with Him will be heaven; to be apart from Him is hell. He is love and righteousness. He is truth and life. He has created time and space and is not limited nor confined by neither. He is one, yet he is known as three, Father, Son, and Spirit. He is revealed in Scripture, witnessed to by nature, and our responsibility to him is written in every heart. His ultimate revelation is the incarnation of Jesus. We are created in His image and given life that will not end by virtue of His very breath. We find Him by faith, experience Him by His Spirit, and will eventually kneel before His throne in judgment or joy. Any other use of the word God has to do with the reality of a cursed, fallen, sinful, world of suffering and death.

What do you mean preacher? If the Bible is correct, and I very much believe it is, God does not enjoy watching us suffer. He gets no pleasure out of seeing the injustice, immorality, selfishness, greed, and wastefulness. He is, however, a God who keeps his word. The wages of sin is death. The world we live in is under a curse, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil has made us think as if we were gods ourselves. When we are born into this world, enter it not with an understanding as to why we were created, but with a desire to have our wants met. We never have to teach a child to be selfish, that will come naturally.

Human history since the fall has been one of conflict over wills. Who will reign in our hearts, our sin nature or God’s love for us? In the midst of this struggle, human beings have expanded this struggle into the realm of human to human relationships. In the midst of these relationship people take on the role of gods and judge one another. The struggle of humanity is filled with a history of our rewarding those who give in to our will and punishing those who do not. It started with Cain killing his brother Abel and continues to this day. Because of this we continually need to be reminded of verse 4-5 and the reality of verse 2. We must contend with unfairness and the unjust.

Paul tells us in Romans 13, God has decreed for any to have a chance there needed to be a system of order. Human behavior, in our desire to be our own gods needed restrain. Thus the magistrate was given the authority to examine human behavior in the light of laws. However, laws can easily be used not only to restrain evil, but also used to promote wickedness. Remember, Jesus was given a trial and legally sentenced to death. Evil still loves to masquerade as good. Evil loves to get us to judge one another. In Psalm 82 God speaks to a reality. He speaks to the gods of this world, human beings who have taken a place of authority over their fellow human beings. He is reminding them that they will not have the last say. He is reminding all who read this Psalm that we live in the reality of verse 5-7. We live the wages of death. We live in the dimension of sin.

OK, so how does this have an effect on my life. Jesus quotes this Psalm. He does so in John 10:34-35. In the passage in John 10:30 He declares He and the Father are one. This declaration so enrages the crowd, that some pick up rocks to stone him. They believe they have the right to judge what he says. He then with authority quotes this Psalm. He does so to remind them of the struggle within us all and the promise God has made to us if we will but listen.

Jesus did not come to judge. He states in John 12:47-48″As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it. There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day (NIV). Jesus has come to claim God’s sheep. He has come proclaiming the Kingdom of God is at hand. The Kingdom of God is in Him, in Him is the relationship with God for which we were created. In Him God speaks to the human heart. In Him faith is not blind but bound to our created purpose and blessed by our willingness to trust in Him. Jesus comes and offers us not a political solution, not a legal solution, not a human solution but a divine solution which is our salvation. In Him we become promised the hope of the Psalmist found in verse 8. In him is the strength move beyond our curse to be gods and to share with others. He came to be the cure for our condition. He reminds us we must be careful because we are as gods. He tells us not to judge on the basis of our deciding what is good and bad or else we will be judged by this standard. He reminds us we are responsible. This world will never be fair, it will never be just. It will always be filled with the struggle of wills.

Our world is filled with institutions created by human beings striving to make sense of the experience we now call life. We band together in our fallen state, as little gods, deciding for ourselves what is good and bad. We are not omniscient. We are very limited in our ability to predict what our actions and efforts will cause. Someday, we will be called to give an account. Someday, we will stand before of the God of creation. You see, we are eternal beings. We are gods in that sense. Death is the beginning of judgment. It is the portal to the wages we have earned. If we stand before the God as gods of our own will, we will have the same fate as the author of evil, as the tempter who thought he could take the place of God. Love cannot redeem that which has rejected it. We do not want to experience this fate. God does not want us to experience this fate.
A man in his 60s was brought before the court for having committed a crime. The judge gave him a 50 year sentence. The man cried out, “Judge, I am 60 years old, I will die before I have completed that sentence.” The judge replied, “That’s OK, just do as much of it as you can.”

Folks, eternity is a long, long time. Again, John 12:47-48 “As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it. There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day (NIV).”

This is not the destiny Jesus desires for us. In the same chapter that Jesus quotes Psalm 82, he states: John 10:10 I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. And how do we have this life: John 5:24 “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. We don’t make very good gods. Even at our best, we fall short. Isn’t it time we turned to the only hope we have out of the mess we are in. Is it not time to quit doing it our way and seek the Kingdom Jesus came to offer us.

Sunday Morning Sermon July 4th, 2010

Psalm 30    Holy History, Lifted Out of the Depths

The Scripture tells us that Jesus came as a fulfillment to God’s promise to seek and save the lost. Jesus came to proclaim the Kingdom of God and let us know that the Kingdom of God was within us. Luke 17:20-21 Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.” Sadly there have always been those who ignore this verse and think they can create a physical kingdom on the back of the church of God. This has resulted in the church being turned into a social control device rather than the transcending presence it was intended to be.

The folks who first came to settle in America did so for religious reasons. America had become a refuge for those who wanted religious freedom and became a home to the many people that had the chance to improve their lives. This was the source of America’s greatness and goodness. However, we can never take this beginning foundation for granted. We will always live with the danger of extremes. What extremes am I talking about? First, there is the extreme of again making our faith simply a social control device that is a form of civil religion. Secondly, there is the extreme of allowing our faith to be made irrelevant in how people live their lives in this land. Both of these extremes are quite active in America today. In one case Jesus is made a political tool. In the other, he is viewed as an outdated myth.

Psalm 130 is a worship Psalm. It is a psalm that we can use to better understand the challenges we face in our faith in America today. It is a good Psalm for our focus on this 4th of July.

Psalm 30 begins with a statement of praise and gratitude. It is a statement of understanding that it was God who rescued the psalmist from a wound received from his enemy. It is a statement of acknowledgement that God is the one who saved him from the Pit.

The freedom we now enjoy in this country did not come easy. Yes, people came to this country for religious freedom, but a quick perusal of this nation’s early history finds that those groups that came wanted to impose their views of faith on others. The first colony to truly allow religious toleration was Rhode Island. It was founded by Roger Williams, a Baptist. Folks, this is not an egotist nor prejudicial sectarian statement but a verifiable historical fact, religious freedom exists in America because of Baptists. Also, in reality, the fact that America survived first the Revolutionary war and the war of 1812 is in itself a miracle and testimony to the holy history this nation has been allowed to experience. God had a purpose and God lifted this small nation out of the pit. God gave us leaders who lived by faith and believe in a nation, “one nation, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.” Yes, God has blessed America and this blessing has allowed us to prevail against our enemies. However, we must never, as Christians and as Baptist ever believe that neither this country, nor any country is the Kingdom of God. Once again I quote the ending 17: 21  not  ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.” God has blessed America because America has been and again can be a nation in which righteousness is desired by the multitude and many, many people have used the freedom we possess to seek first the Kingdom of God. I have no doubt, though, if Americans continue to move away from using the gift of freedom and liberty to seek and serve the Creator of the universe and continue to instead turn liberty into license, God’s blessing will wane (I believe this has already begun).

What makes this even worse is that the church, the bride of Christ, has followed our culture down this road of carnality and decadence. Freedom of religion is not why people seek to come to this country now. They come seeking material things. They do not come because of our churches but because of our corporations. America is more about money as the message than the faith that founded our freedoms. Is it any wonder our culture has become so corrupt. Yet, if but the faithful, if but the righteous remnant would cry out as the Psalmist does in verse 2, I believe with all my heart a healing, a revival and renewal could still come.

Look at verse 5. This verse reveals a truth we need to hold with all our might. It reminds us of two axioms of our faith. One, our God is a righteous God and we do need fear his anger. Thomas Jefferson, one our America’s founding fathers said: And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep forever.” The last thing on most American’s mind in this day and age is the judgment of God. It should though be on the mind of every true follower of Jesus Christ. It will be brought to the mind of every human being at sometime in their life. It is the duty of the church to be the watchman, the sentry, the lifeguard who calls out to those who have lost the true meaning of freedom and liberty, “You need God’s grace, you need God’s guidance! You need the gift of his Son. You need Jesus. Our country needs people who faithfully follow Jesus and not just “do church”. People need for those who are faithful to tell others about Jesus. Ezekiel 3:17-21 Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to a wicked man, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from his evil ways in order to save his life, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. But if you do warn the wicked man and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his evil ways, he will die for his sin; but you will have saved yourself. “Again, when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and does evil, and I put a stumbling block before him, he will die. Since you did not warn him, he will die for his sin. The righteous things he did will not be remembered, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. But if you do warn the righteous man not to sin and he does not sin, he will surely live because he took warning, and you will have saved yourself.” Once again look at verse 5. The second axiom found in this verse is our God is a God of grace and love. Our night is not yet through, however if we are faithful we can be assured the morning will come. We are called to bring hope and joy.

In verses 6-7 we find the folly of the fallen. The folly of thinking we are beyond reproach, the folly of carnal confidence. This is a contagious cancer. It spreads by virtue of our sin nature. It causes us to take God for granted. It leads us to focus on a fantasy-filled future rather than seeking to find a focused, foundational faith. In verses 8-10 we find that the Psalmist understands the reason he got into the mess he or she was in is because they had taken God’s blessing for granted. They had forgotten the conditions of the covenant. They forgot what God expected, just as many people today (both those who are lost and those who are saved) have done. What does God require and what does God expect: Micah 6:8 “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” These requirements have been trampled on in too many lives because of arrogance, ignorance or both. We need mercy.

Verse nine is filled with rhetorical questions and certain consequence of ignoring what God has spoken through his word. God does not want our destruction. God does not want us in the pit. God does not like seeing us in the dust.

(A little boy asked his mother, “Did God really make Adam out of the dust? She replied, “Yes he did, why do you ask?” “It looks like he is going to make a whole bunch of Adams under my bed!”)

God does not put us in these situations, we put ourselves in them. But there is a way out. As the psalmist knows, our God is a merciful God.

This is why Jesus came. Jesus came to lift us up. Again there is a song we sing (Love lifted Me). Jesus tell us: John 12:32 “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” He tells us: John 14:6 “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” And John 8:32 “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Look at verses 11 and 12. Here is the answer. Here is the path to follow. This is where true freedom and liberty is found. This is the way back, through God’s mercy. Seek first the Kingdom of God and the blessing that made this country great, that gives us unfailing hope, that provides purpose, courage and strength for times such as these. I believe God wants to bless America again and again and again. Not because it is a Christian nation, but because it can again have true seekers who will turn to the One in whom true freedom is found, Jesus Christ our Lord.