Sermon Options: August 26, 2012
GOD IS THE PROMISE
1 KINGS 8:(1, 6, 10-11) 22-30, 41-43
Inside the human spirit there rises a desire to seek, know, experience, and please God. Sometimes there is a question as to whether God will meet us. Yet on other occasions we boldly claim God’s presence and feel God’s special touch on our individual lives or in our public services.
Like a printer’s trademark of several years ago, God draws a circle and writes, “I never disappoint.” God makes promises to his people.
I. God Promises His Presence (vv. 1, 6, 10-11)
Solomon is the faithful king with much promise, but he keenly realizes the desperate dependency of his rulership on God’s presence. In preparation for the temple dedication he brings out the symbol of God’s promises—the Ark of the Covenant. Inside the ark were the two tablets of stone with the law written on them and— according to the writer of Hebrews—a pot of manna and Aaron’s rod. These were constant reminders that God would not leave nor forsake his people.
Today there are symbols to remind us of God’s presence. Symbols for the New Testament church abound, such as the cross, bread and fruit of the vine, the empty tomb, and a crown. They help us along our spiritual journey to visualize God’s leadership and presence by giving us proper understanding of God’s glory.
II. God Promises His Covenant Love (vv. 22-26)
Solomon’s prayer of temple dedication begins with a statement of promise that God would give his love. However, for Israel to maintain its favored nation status, it must meet the condition that God laid down—wholehearted devotion to him. This accomplishment would occur if the people walked with him in obedience and trust. The question was not if God would love them, rather would they love God?
That remains the question today. God loves us, as John 3:16 states emphatically. The “whosoever will believe” gives us the condition. Acceptance of the promise gives us the special “favored person” status.
III. God Promises His Concern (vv. 27-30)
These verses indicate that God can be visited in his sanctuary made by hands; however, God is not limited to just the temple. The Almighty God dwells in heaven and is on the earth, literally everywhere. We cannot box him in or domesticate him. He is distant, yet closely attentive to the needs of his people. He quite literally is the awesome God with a personal touch. Only a God free from us can really help us.
God’s love is concerned with our circumstances. He abides with us and works with us. He graciously makes a difference in our lives. God inclines his heart, ears, and eyes toward us. We can have genuine confidence in this great God that Solomon speaks of in this text.
IV. God Promises His Answer (vv. 41-43)
The Lord is the answer to life’s needs, questions, and sins. This God of promise comes to all who genuinely seek to know his forgiveness, love, and presence. Step by step God will lead us if, in faith, we follow. Our lives can be built on him. Our need is to worship God in spirit and in truth! Will you? (Derl G. Keefer)
Everyone who has ever tried to live the Christian life would admit that it is a struggle. Our vision is so limited that we only see the physical things with which we wrestle. We focus on ourselves, our circumstances, and others. In the later portions of Ephesians, chapter 6, the apostle Paul attempts to redirect our sights. He tells us our struggle is not really with flesh and blood, those things upon which we most often focus. Our real conflict is spiritual and with spiritual forces!
This is one of those passages we must read with the eyes of faith. We cannot see with our physical eyes the things about which Paul speaks. More important, Paul discusses how we may have victory in this conflict, which we accept we are in by faith.
We know Paul’s exhortation as spiritual armor. Paul gives spiritual meaning to the armor of a Roman soldier. By putting on the armor of God we, too, will be equipped to fight and win in the spiritual struggle in which we find ourselves. Paul describes six pieces of our spiritual armor.
I. We Wear the Belt of Truth
The first part of our spiritual armor is truth. Two ideas are significant about truth. First, Christians should know and believe the truth about who God is and what God has done. This relates to cognitive facts about what the Bible says about God and his mighty acts. Human notions of God will not do. Second, we must be truthful people. Telling the truth to ourselves and others, in love, is essential in the spiritual battle in which we are engaged.
II. We Wear the Breastplate of Righteousness
Another aspect of our spiritual armor is right living. Many a believer has been sidelined due to corrupt behavior. The visual image is the piece of armor that protects the chest and heart. In order to protect this large area of the body a large sheet of metal was fashioned to guard it. The protection for our spiritual lives is personal holiness.
III. Our Feet Are Shod with the Gospel of Peace
This third item of equipment calls us to evangelism and missions. Every believer is to be actively involved in sharing the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ alone. When we fail to spread the word about Christ we are unprepared for spiritual conflict. Along with personal evangelism we can be part of mission efforts away from our homes. Church planting, church construction, and short-term mission volunteers are specific ways we take the gospel of peace to those around us and the world.
IV. We Wear the Shield of Faith
A defense device that allowed the bearer to fend off arrows and spears was the shield. Likewise, Christians can extinguish the fiery darts of the enemy by clinging to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Defining faith is often easier than explaining how to live by faith. A life of faith is characterized by dependence on the Lord. Paul wrote to the church at Rome that whatever was not of faith was sin (Rom. 14:23) . Perhaps another way of looking at the life of faith is to think in terms of pleasing the Lord. Does what I am doing bring pleasure to the Lord? Faith is a vital part of our spiritual armor.
V. We Wear the Helmet of Salvation
Even in ancient days helmets were used to protect the head from injury. Perhaps no part of the body is as susceptible to a mortal wound as is the head. We safeguard our heads by wearing helmets when we ride bicycles and play sports.
In the spiritual realm this important body part represents salvation. Nothing can rival the necessity of our own salvation for victorious Christian living. The assurance of our salvation becomes a security from doubts and dismay. Discouragement, which is one of our very real opponents, is thwarted by confidence that the Lord has saved us. Salvation by grace through faith stands as a pillar of strength in the midst of our spiritual conflict.
VI. We Carry the Sword of the Spirit
The final piece of our spiritual armor is the sword of the Spirit. Of course the analogy refers to the Word of God. As believers we should hear, read, study, apply, memorize, and meditate on the Bible.
It’s interesting that Scripture is the only part of the equipment that is for offense in this spiritual conflict. While Holy Writ is not to be a weapon for us to use in order to beat others over the head, it should serve to help us move forward in the Christian life. Apart from the Word we have no clear guidance and would be left only with our feelings. God’s Word enables us to press the fight toward our spiritual enemies who are not flesh and blood.
Paul concludes this section of scripture with a clear admonition to prayer. As we take up the full armor of God and couple it with prayer we can conquer the spiritual forces that wage war against us. (Douglas Walker)
Jesus is preaching in the synagogue at Capernaum to people of faith. This is not a public discourse in the sense that he was standing on the street corner preaching to people with no religion. Jesus knew the Jews believed. Jesus knew the Jews practiced their faith. Jesus knew the Jewish faith and claimed to the Jews that their faith had now been fulfilled by his arrival. He did not try to destroy their faith, but to fill it more full of divine truth.
Jesus claims to be the “bread” that “came down from heaven” and that the “one who eats this bread will live forever.” When his life became their own life then they would live forever, just as Jesus was going to live forever.
I. The Disciples Difficulty
One could assume that the casual attender at the synagogue would have difficulty with such a teaching, but one would hope that his disciples would “get it.” They didn’t! John goes out of his way to point out that many of the close followers of Jesus found this teaching to be difficult.
Other translators have the disciples responding: “This is very hard to understand. Who can tell what he means?” (TLB). “This is more than we can stomach!” (NEB). “This is intolerable language. How could anyone accept it?” (JB). Such comments from a casual observer could be expected, but not from his faithful followers. John says that Jesus disciples were complaining. Jesus claim to be the living bread that would provide eternal life for all who believe in him was dividing people into camps.
Jesus response was to say to his disciples, in so many words, “So this offends you? Wait until the Ascension. If my claim to come from God is difficult teaching, wait until I return to God after the Resurrection. You haven’t seen anything yet. Stick around.” Many did not. They had had enough and they went back to their Judaism, or whatever. But not Peter.
II. Nowhere Else to Go
When the outer circle of disciples began to thin, Jesus turned to his inner circle of twelve and challenged them to make a decision. Peter then made it clear that he (for a while anyway) got the gospel message and he would cast his lot with Jesus. As a matter of fact he felt that there was nowhere else to go, for Jesus had “the words of eternal life.”
The challenge here is to those of us who already consider ourselves disciples. Jesus keeps stretching our faith. Jesus keeps saying, “You have come this far, come a little farther. You have committed this much, commit a little more. You love these people, now open your arms to these people. You have compassion for the one hurting person in front of you, now broaden that compassion to all hurting people in God’s world.”
Grow, grow, grow. Jesus is continually trying to remold us into his likeness, which means that there are few way stations along the journey at which we can rest.
Clarence Jordan visited an integrated church somewhere in the southern United States. He asked the uneducated preacher, “How did the church get this way?” The pastor explained the message he preached: “If you’re one with Jesus, you’ve one with all kinds of folks. And if you ain’t you ain’t.”
“What happened?” Jordan asked.
“Well,” the preacher said, “the deacons took me into the back room and told me they didn’t want to hear that kind of preaching no more. So I fired them deacons! Then I preached that church down to four. And not long after that it grew and grew and grew. And I found out that revival sometimes don’t mean bringing people in, but gettin the people out who don’t love Jesus.”
Jesus knew his teachings would be difficult in a fallen world. He never promised us an easy time. He promised us his presence. (C. Thomas Hilton)