Sermon Options: September 2, 2012

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THE DREAM OF LOVE

SONG OF SOLOMON 2:8-13

The theme of the book of the Song of Solomon is a “celebration of love.” Bible scholars have interpreted this passage several ways.

Some scholars believe that this love is between a man and a woman. Many view the song as a love poem about King Solomon and his bride. Others view it as a triangle of love: a shepherd figure who is the real lover and who wins the girl’s heart over the romantic advances of the king. Still others view this as a collection of unrelated love poems with no overarching story line at all. And some Bible interpreters comment that this lover’s song is an allegory depicting either God’s wholesale love of the nation of Israel or Christ’s love for the church.

The text can be titled, “The Dream of Love,” and seen as a dream of romantic love or spiritualized as a dream for the divine love of God. In the text, notice first:

I. The Excitement of Love (vv. 8-9)

Have you ever been away from your sweetheart for any length of time? What was missing? The touch, eyes, and voice. Most of all what was missing was the companionship! Companionship is the ability to share surface conversation and intimate thoughts as well. When I am with my love, my wife, she doesn’t have to speak a word. Simply knowing that she is near comforts me. There is a calming effect that all is well. When I have been away for a conference and get close to home, my heart starts beating faster and I begin to visualize her in my mind. When we embrace, I know that all is right with the world and a peace settles over me.

The crescendo of love heightens as the girl anticipates her lover “leaping across the mountains, bounding over the hills” (v. 8, NIV) in order to be with her. It is great to have someone love us. God’s love for us is like that.

II. The Invitation of Love (v. 10)

Even when sin separated us from God, God still loved us so much that he sent his one and only Son out searching for us. In our foolishness we mistreated him by ignoring his invitation to abide with him. Yet our hearts were lonely and empty and there was a longing for real life. God dealt with us through his preachers and laypeople sharing the gospel and being people of intercession—praying for us to respond to the invitation of Jesus.

When we began facing the truth and understanding the God that longed for us, we responded. A new excitement filled our hearts! He created in us a new heart with new ambitions and goals. He became our friend for eternity!

III. The New Life of Love (vv. 11-13)

In Palestine the winter dumps heavy, cold rain upon the ground and people. The gray clouds give off a feeling of despair and gloom.

The spring ushers in a new sense of optimism with its warm sun that calls forth life from the moist earth. With the arrival of spring comes the ripening of the figs on the trees and the blossoms become tender grapes. The migrating turtledove returns with the warm weather. All is new. All of this new life in nature creates the mood, the ambiance, the feeling of lovers in love. Life is fresh and exciting.

The obvious spiritual comparison unfolds for us. When we find our lover, God, the newness is everywhere. We have a new name: Christian. A new heart: transformed. A new personhood: redeemed. A new home: heaven. But new life comes only because we have the lover with us—God! (Derl G. Keefer)

PUTTING IT INTO PRACTICE

JAMES 1:17-27

There are moments when golf is one of the most exhilarating games on earth. Two minutes later golf can be the most frustrating game on earth. Golf is a sport where many times a player knows what to do but just can’t do it. A golfer sometimes has difficulty putting into practice what he or she knows to do.

The Christian life at times is like golf. The Christian knows what to do but sometimes just doesn’t do it. The book of James helps and encourages us as Christians to put into practice what we know to do. In this passage from James we find three clear exhortations to do what we know to do. James answers the question: “How can I put into practice what I know I should do?”

I. Acknowledging God’s Perfection (vv. 17-18)

James lists for us some of God’s perfections. Every good thing that is given and every perfect gift comes from the Father, which demonstrates his perfection. The blessings of life, such as family, food, friends, health, and material blessings, are all evidences of God’s goodness and grace. As we acknowledge God for his perfection our hearts should overflow into thanksgiving to him.

Our heavenly Father exists in such perfection that there is no variation in him or shadow of turning. What a stark contrast between the creatures and the Creator! As further evidence of God’s perfection, James speaks of God’s will in bringing us to salvation. All of this should evoke in us an acknowledgment of who God is, which will enable us to put into practice what we know.

II. Thinking of Others First

James instructs us to place others before ourselves in order to put into practice what we know. We are to be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger. When we practice these characteristics, we genuinely put others before ourselves and show them the kindness and respect of Christ. The hard part, of course, is being consistent in our conduct; James reminds us that our anger and haste does not accomplish the righteousness of God.

Furthermore, we are to be humble and remove all filthiness and wickedness. Such acts show we are thinking of others before we are thinking of ourselves and placing their interests before our own. A lifestyle characterized by thinking of others first demonstrates that the word has been implanted in the soul of that individual.

III. Doing God’s Word (vv. 22-27)

The clearest expression of our need to put into practice what we know comes in this section. James pleads with us to be doers of the Word and not mere hearers. The warning is strong for those who do not do the Word—they are deluding themselves.

These words call for personal examination. Each of us should reflect on our own lives to see if we apply what we know. A wise Christian once told me that spiritual maturity is not based on what you know, but on what you do with what you know.

Application of God’s Word is the real test for our walk with God. James argues that we deceive ourselves when we do not apply the Bible. In fact, these are some of the strongest words in all of Scripture that warn of self-deception. It is not enough for us to hear and read the Bible if we do not put into practice what we know. As illustrations James cites our ability or inability to bridle the tongue and our willingness to minister to widows and orphans—those with great need.

All of us need to be reminded of the necessity of putting into practice what we know to do. All of us need encouragement and help from time to time to be strong enough to keep practicing what we know is right. May God give us the grace and strength to help and encourage one another to put into practice what we know. (Douglas Walker)

INSIDE JOB

MARK 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

The world has a crude expression—taken from computer terminology—that goes like this: “garbage in, garbage out.” It is meant to warn people that they should carefully select what they read, the movies they see, the friends with whom they associate, and the television programs they watch, for the danger is that you may become that which you see, hear, and associate with. The corollary is, “you are what you eat.”

Many people feel that participating in a corrupt world will ipso facto produce a corrupt person. They always assume that the dark will overcome the light and the light will never overcome the darkness. The Bible tells us it can go either way.

I. When the Inner and Outer Don’t Match

Inner faith will produce outer actions—there is no doubt about that, and Jesus has no quarrel with that. If, when you feel like praying, you fold your hands, bow your head, close your eyes, and kneel, then your outer posture is rightfully expressing your inner feelings. If you love someone and you greet that person with a hug as a manifestation of your endearment, then your actions are expressing your inner feelings. If you thoroughly enjoy the company of an individual and hence spend most of your time with that person, you are expressing with your body the inner feelings of your heart and mind. Your inner feelings and your outer actions are expressing the same emotions.

Hypocrisy comes when you display the outer actions without the inner feelings: when you bow your head to pray but do not feel like praying; when you hug a person you do not like; or, like Judas Iscariot, when you kiss a person but do not use the kiss as an expression of affection but as some other kind of sign. If you spend time with others in order to use them but do not really like their company, you are being hypocritical because your actions are not an extension of your inner feelings. You must have not only the “words” but the “music” to go along with words.

Jesus wants his hearers to know that their Jewish religion supports such inner faith for he quoted the prophet Isaiah (29:13) “These people . . . honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me.” That is hypocrisy! Pretending to be something you are not and have no intention of being.

II. It’s What’s Inside That Counts

If I told you I saw a local pastor one night coming out of a notoriously risqu‚ bar with his arms around some of the drinkers singing loud songs, what would you think? You would wonder what he was up to! I neglected to mention that the pastor had on a Salvation Army uniform and they were singing “Amazing Grace.” Well, that’s a little different then, isn’t it? The pastor’s motivation was to witness to Jesus Christ and to rescue the perishing, not join them in their revelry.

The difference is inner motivation. All evil things come from within, but so do all good things. The outward act can be ambiguous and therefore we must look, as God does, upon the inner motivation.

The Christian faith is an inside job. The apostle Paul encouraged the Christians at Philippi with these words: “[W]hatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” Phil. 4:8) .

Think and act on these things. When you do, your Christian life will have both the words and the music. (C. Thomas Hilton)

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