Sermon Options: March 7, 2021

February 4th, 2021

Principles for Quality Living

Exodus 20:1-17

These timeless commandments were given to Moses on Mount Sinai en route to the Promised Land. They have never lost their relevance. Embedded in the Ten Commandments are two great principles that God has given to enable us to live life with quality and direction.

I. We Are to Honor God Above All Else (vv. 3-11)

How do we give God the honor that is rightfully his?

We recognize that God comes first (v. 3). This is the foundational commandment—the priority of God. God is eternal and he is unique—“you shall have no other gods before me.” A Scottish clan chieftain was told to deny his loyalty to the Stuart king or die. He said, “You may take my head from my shoulders but you cannot take my king from my heart.” God is to have priority in our hearts and our lives.

We put nothing in God’s place (vv. 4-6). God said there were to be no graven images. We may feel safe on the second commandment—after all, not many of us have a little carving of Baal in the family room! But anything that we put before our loyalty to God becomes our idol. It can be our home, family, work, sports, or car. What shape is your idol? Let nothing come between your soul and the Savior.

We honor God’s name (v. 7). The command to not take God’s name in vain is more than simply a prohibition of cursing, which is really a terrible form of prayer. Profanity not only reflects a heart darkened with hate, but it shows an utter disrespect for a holy God. The commandment also means that we are not to take God’s name and then fail to live up to our profession.

We worship God faithfully (vv. 8-11). As Christians—who do not live by ceremonial Jewish law—what does it mean for us to keep the Sabbath day holy? Because Christ arose the first day of the week, most Christians worship on the Lord’s Day—the first day of the week, when Jesus rose from the grave—instead of on Saturday. The word holy means different or set apart. The Sabbath principle is valid. We are to observe a weekly day of rest and gladness, worship and study.

II. We Are Also to Honor One Another (vv. 12-17)

First we are told to honor parents (v. 12). This is a commandment to show respect for those who reared us. It holds the promise of long life. It is equally important for parents to be worthy of their children’s respect. Shakespeare wrote, “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth is a thankless child.”

Then we are reminded that life is sacred (v. 13). This is not a prohibition against all killing, such as the killing of animals, capital punishment, warfare, or police action. It may be translated, “You shall do no murder.” All life is the gift of God and therefore is sacred.

Further, we see that sexuality is sacred (v. 14). Adultery violates one of God’s good gifts and violates other persons. Sex is sacred within the context of marriage, love, and commitment. Outside that context it is demeaning to human personality and a deliberate violation of the known will of God. Let us determine to be pure.

We must also recognize that property is to be respected (v. 15). This commandment prohibits stealing, a universal problem. We may be outright thieves, or we may steal indirectly. Honest work is right, and stealing violates another person and his or her property rights. Let us determine to be honest in all our dealings.

Truth is to be protected (v. 16). Words are powerful and important. Once spoken they cannot be taken back. Words can incite to violence or inspire to faith. Words can hurt or help and, therefore, truth is essential. Satan is “the father of lies” (John 8:44) . God hates a lie ( Prov. 6) . The New Testament teaches us to speak the truth in love. Read 1 Corinthians 13 in the New English Bible translation.

We must also recognize that attitudes can be destructive (v. 17). “You shall not covet” is not simply an external commandment, but a very internal one. Covetousness is wrong desire. It relates to our inner motives, setting our heart on the wrong thing or person. We have more things to covet than earlier generations. Ours is an acquisitive society. The Quakers teach that “it is a gift to be simple.” Covetousness kills our contentment and leads to greed. Let us learn to be magnanimous.

As Christians, we find in these Ten Commandments a set of profound guidelines that demonstrate the kind of life God wants us to live. (Alton H. McEachern)

The Power of the Cross

1 Corinthians 1:18-23

God has taken the cross and made a symbol of life from a symbol of death, a symbol of morality from a symbol of immorality, a thing of pride from an embarrassment. He has displayed strength in weakness, and wisdom in foolishness.

I. To Some the Cross Appears Foolish or Weak

The Jews looked for a sign. God would send his King and defeat their enemy, the Romans. Yet Jesus didn’t defeat the Romans; they defeated him, didn’t they?

The Greeks sought wisdom and logic. They wanted a religion any reasonable person could accept. Who can blame them? But after thousands of years, humanity has not developed one logical religion that all intelligent people have heard, understood, and embraced. We never will. The Greeks also rejected the notion of a god who hurt. If your sins could hurt God, you would have to have some power over God. To the Greek, this concept was foolish.

The sign, however, was given. Numerous prophecies had been fulfilled. The victory had been won, but against a far more dangerous enemy than Rome: sin. And the cross was not foolish; its wisdom was just deeper than the Greeks could fathom. They had omitted one crucial fact: “God is love.”

Are contemporary people any different? No. Some seek signs and miracles. Some are still looking for answers for all the world’s political and economic problems. We want to conquer violence, drugs, and crime. But we have a bigger enemy about which no one wants to talk: sin. We are just like the Jews who thought their biggest enemy was Rome.

Other modern people are seeking wisdom. New Age seekers are constantly trying to market some intelligent-sounding, spiritualized philosophy whereby they make themselves god. They think we are foolish to submit to the authority of a God who loves all the way to a cross and who speaks through a Bible. “Christ may have died on the cross, but he didn’t have to. You can conquer sin by reading a self-help book, meditating, or easiest yet, just by redefining sin.”

Personally, I want an authority in my life who loves me, who feels my pain when I hurt, and who has a plan by which all my failures can be turned into victories. In other words, I need the cross.

II. The Cross Is a Symbol of Wisdom and Strength

The cross is a symbol of wisdom because it is God’s plan. It amazes me when people who cannot understand how to cure the common cold, much less design life, can think we are as intelligent as God and are suitable authorities.

I have often compared the cross to a rock. A rock the size of my fist can prevent a car from beginning to roll down a hill. But let the same car start rolling and get to that rock, and the car will keep going with only a slight bump. It would take a much bigger rock to stop the car, and something more than a rock to turn the car around and get it going in the other direction. Sinful humanity is going downhill, fast. Only the cross can stop us, turn us around, and get us going in an upward direction. That’s power!

God has taken a cross, a means of capital punishment, and made it a thing of beauty. That’s power. If God can change the cross into strength, wisdom, beauty, morality, and life, just think what he can do with us! (Bill Groover)

A Dangerous Man!

John 2:13-22

This is a disturbing passage for some Christians. Seeing Jesus angry to the point of violence offers a somewhat awkward picture in relation to the Jesus so many people want to see. John is not afraid to depict the humanity of Jesus. John also seeks to portray Jesus sharing the message of the kingdom with a sense of urgency that demands a decision from those he encounters now! This scene hinges on the question of Jesus authority. A new day has come to human history initiated by God in Jesus. This new revelation as authoritative truth demands that people decide.

What is the source of Jesus authority? In this story, we observe two different sources.

I. Jesus Authority Emerges from His Holiness

The temple was to be a place of prayer, but it had been turned into a flea market! Perhaps it was not only the merchandising that offended Jesus but also the exploitation of the poorer worshipers. Jesus knew that a holy and righteous God was not honored by such a display. And his own holiness gave Jesus an authority with which to stand against the powerful people who misused the temple.

Jesus fashions a whip of cords and drives the money changers out, overturning their tables, spilling their coins. The kingdom Jesus brings will divide those who have an authentic faith from those who do not. This story certainly illustrates that disparity in the reaction of those Jesus encounters. John is not afraid to show an angry Jesus because, in John’s eyes, Jesus has every reason to be angry in reaction to the apathetic faith of those he encounters in, of all places, his Father’s house.

Our own lives help to determine our credibility in standing for the things of God. If our lives do not match our witness, there is no authority to our words.

II. Jesus Authority Emerges from His Confidence in God

Jesus could demonstrate such boldness because he knew that his life was in God’s hands. Even though he knew he was only a few days from the cross, nevertheless, he had absolute trust in the Father that he would be raised from the grave in power and glory!

The disclosure of his passion in answer to the question of authority is Jesus way of revealing the cosmic nature of the authority on which he is acting. It was only after the Resurrection that the disciples understood the meaning of that authority and the ultimate difference it would make in terms of the salvation of the world.

Martin Bell, in his book The Way of the Wolf, describes the issue present in this story from John when he writes: “to live is to decide, to risk being wrong, to bet your life. . . . It is not enough to be interested in this man, or fascinated by him or drawn to him. Either we stand ready to commit our deaths to him or we don’t. No one ever knows the Christ and then commits himself. Commitment is the one and only way by which we may know the Christ.”

There is no in-between when it comes to a person’s response to the authority with which Jesus communicates the gospel. The response of the Jewish religious leaders, expressed through their question concerning the authority by which Jesus does such things, only demonstrates their lack of authentic faith. They frankly do not know who Jesus is.

In this Lenten season, the church must proclaim the gospel with a sense of urgency that is inherent to its proclamation. The connection of Jesus passion to his anger and outrage illustrates the passion and the authority with which Jesus acted. Such a response must be characteristic of our response to who Jesus is, lest we preach a watered-down gospel that demands nothing of anyone.

As the community of faith, we must recognize the danger of Jesus in the authoritative word he speaks, for it demands nothing less than all we are. Such a word was dangerous in the first century and is no less dangerous today! (Travis Franklin)

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