Sermon Options: December 3, 2023

October 15th, 2020

Come on Down!

Isaiah 64:1-9

Like the announcer on the popular television game show "The Price Is Right," Isaiah prays, "Hey, God, come on down!" Is that what we really want, for God to come down from heaven? Not likely. We want God safe in the heavens and away from everyday life until we really need him. But these prophets won't leave well enough alone. Isaiah had to pray this prayer: O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence— as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil— to make your name known to your adversaries, so that the nations might tremble at your presence! (vv. 1-2)

I. We Want God to "Come On Down"

That's fine for the prophets but that's not really what we want. We want the safety of God in the Bette Midler song "From a Distance." We prefer God at a distance and not in our midst. That's how we feel. But then that's what this passage is all about, isn't it? We are the people of this passage.

But deep in our hearts we really do want God to come on down so God will know what life is like. It might be frightening, but we still want to see the glory of God. And so with the prophet we call out, "Hey, God, come on down!"

II. God Has Already Come

God came down. That's what this season is all about: the day God came down to be one of us. Gramps found his grandson jumping up and down in his playpen, crying at the top of his voice. When Johnnie saw Gramps, he reached out his chubby little hands and said, "Out, Gramps, out." Gramps reached down to lift his grandson out of his predicament, but as he did, Johnnie's mom stepped up and said, "No, Johnnie, you are being punished. You have to stay in your playpen." Gramps didn't know what to do. His grandson's tears reached deep into his heart. Mom's firmness couldn't be taken lightly. But love found a way. Gramps could not take his grandson out of the playpen; instead he climbed in with the little boy.

That is exactly what Jesus did for us at Christmas. Christ Jesus left heaven for earth and climbed in with us. God came down. The Word was made flesh. God in Christ moved in next door. God did tear open the heavens, not in the mighty way we expected, but when the angelic chorus burst forth in song at the birth, all heaven broke loose. We said we didn't want it, but we were wrong.

God came down and walked as one of us. The world trembles in awe and wonder at the miracle of that birth. God came down and wasn't angry. God came down and, through an infant, said "I love you." (Billy D. Strayhorn)

Party Favors

1 Corinthians 1:3-9

My son is rapidly turning into a socialite. As a first grader, he has reached the age of having his own schedule. No longer does his world revolve around the world of his parents; he now has his own world of ball games, school activities, and birthday parties. Last year, for example, he attended eleven birthday parties. Parties are always fun for him. He loves the invitation, and he loves the party favors that he brings home when the cake and ice cream are long gone. Party favors remind him of the joy of the party.

The salvific call of God is a call to a celebration. It is a call to an everlasting party thrown in honor of his Son. Paul states it this way: "God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord" (v. 9). As Paul offers words of introduction in his first letter to the Corinthian church, he reminds his readers of the party favors given to those who have responded to the invitation of fellowship. Blessings of God come to those who respond in faith to Christ Jesus. To the faithful, God enriches, God equips, and God sustains.

I. We Are Enriched by God (vv. 5-6)

The Corinthian church was spiritually rich. Paul writes of two ways in which God had blessed the church. The people were enriched in their speech and in their knowledge. These first-century Christians not only had an ability to proclaim the truth of God to others; they also had an understanding of that truth.

In Acts 8, Luke tells the story of an Ethiopian eunuch traveling from Jerusalem to Gaza. Philip, led by the Spirit of God, joins the chariot and talks with this man. The Ethiopian is reading from the book of Isaiah. Philip asks, "Do you understand what you are reading?" He responds, "How can I, unless someone guides me?" (vv. 30-31). He holds truth in his hands but has no understanding of its meaning.

Truth without knowledge can be worthless. For example, I can watch a green plant grow from a seed to a fruit-bearing plant. It happens constantly and consistently in this world of ours. Yet why or how it knows to grow is a complete mystery to me. I can proclaim the mystery of growth, yet not understand it.

God has enriched (gifted) each believer not only with the power of proclamation but also with a knowledge of his will and purpose. Every Christian can be used of God to proclaim the good news of God because every Christian has a personal knowledge of God. Because of God's enrichment, we proclaim what we know.

II. We Are Equipped by God (v. 7)

Paul offers a word of encouragement, reminding the Christians of Corinth that God has well equipped them for ministry. "You are not lacking in any spiritual gift," writes Paul. When individuals respond to Christ in faith, through the power of the Holy Spirit, they receive all the spiritual gifts needed to do the work of ministry assigned to them by God. I'll always remember my first "real" summer job. I was sixteen, and for forty hours a week I bagged groceries and stocked shelves in a local supermarket. On the first morning of work, I received the tools of the trade: a white apron, a price stamper, a box cutter, and a lecture on how to bag groceries. I was equipped for success at my new job.

There is an old expression: "Where God guides, God provides." That's good theology. As we are called into the fellowship of Christ's kingdom, we are equipped by God to do ministry in the lives of others. We do not lack anything; we have all we need to love with compassion and witness with sincerity. God blesses us with divine gifts of grace. We are equipped.

III. We Are Sustained by God (v. 8)

The relationship with humankind, established by God through Christ Jesus, is always a permanent relationship. Through Christ, we belong to the forever family of God. We will never be abandoned or forsaken. We are kept strong until the end of our earthly lives when we will be made complete in Christ Jesus. God sustains us in a number of ways. We are fed by his Word, encouraged by his Spirit, and forgiven through his Son. God's sustaining grace is constantly given to us so that we can enjoy continual fellowship in the Kingdom. Paul offered the same words of assurance to the church at Philippi: "I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ" ( Phil. 1:6) .

Party favors remind the partygoer of the joy of the party. As a constant reminder of the joy of knowing Jesus, God enriches our lives, equips us for ministry, and sustains us by his infinite grace. (John R. Roebuck)

The Truth About the End

Mark 13:24-37

Everything has a genesis—a beginning, a starting point. But just as everything has a beginning, it also has an ending. Life began somewhere in the murky past. We know little of its history except for the broad strokes that the Bible paints for us. Scientists of various disciplines attempt to fill in the finer lines, but still it seems out of focus. The one thought we know is that "in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (Gen. 1:1 NKJV).

One day the world will have to deal with the end. Our text deals specifically with the truth concerning the end. What is that truth as described in this passage?

I. God Has a Plan for Every One of Us

God's plan includes:

Purpose. Individuals should be working toward an action, an aim, or a design that God desires for their lives.

Leadership. Individuals should be following God's leadership, not leading God!

Achievement. Being successful means reaching the goals God has for people.

Nurture. Being educated and trained by God in the rigors of the Christian life is basic to the plan.

Walt Kallestad describes two people who took a journey through a forest. One had a destination, a compass, and a map. The other was out for a pleasant stroll through the forest. As day began to wane, the shadows lengthened, and both began thinking about getting home.

The individual who did not bring a map or a compass thought that if he went from tree to tree, he could find his way out of the forest. So the traveler wandered until darkness overtook him. The second traveler also realized that darkness was descending. He pulled the map and compass out of his pocket and aligned the instruments and began walking until he was out of the forest.

Effective Christians follow God's destination for their lives by reading the map (Bible) and following the compass (prayer.) There's another truth here:

II. The World Is Going Somewhere

The world's viewpoint is dominated by the philosophy that history goes in a circle. The biblical viewpoint is that the world, including humankind, is headed to a consummation. God is in control of the universe. It is wonderful to know that the hand that controls the universe handles our cares, too! In The Birth of the New Testament, C. D. F. Moule writes, "New Testament thought on the last things, at its best, always concentrates on what God has already done for man in Christ. It does not say, How long will it be before the last whistle blows full-time? Rather it says, Where ought I to be to receive the next pass? What really matters is that the kick-off has already taken place, the game is on and we have a captain to lead us on to victory."

The third truth here is a call to action:

III. Christians Are Challenged to Watch

Christians must not become so enthralled with this world's priorities that we lose sight that this world is not our home. Jesus is coming back to gather his people home. The question is, Are you ready? Be prepared! Watch! (Derl G. Keefer)

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