Sermon Options: December 2, 2018

November 5th, 2018

THE PROMISED ONE

JEREMIAH 33:14-16

According to a recent study, 1.6 percent of the world’s population will commit suicide. On one hand, that percentage seems too high. On the other hand, it may be surprising that more people aren’t in line for the highest windows.

When C. S. Lewis’s wife died, in his grief he wrote: “What reason have we, except our own desperate wishes to believe that God is, by any standard we can conceive, ‘good’? Doesn’t all the evidence suggest exactly the opposite?”

I. Our Lives Can Seem Hopeless

In his darkest hour, the prophet Jeremiah cursed the day he was born. He spent his life telling the Hebrew people to shape up, with almost no results. The Babylonians had demolished Jerusalem and the temple and run off with all the best stuff and some of the best people. Jeremiah was left in captivity in Jerusalem. He is at this writing (v.1) confined to quarters. The Jews left behind at the exile lost their home, too, for they knew that life was not what it should be.

The whole world understands the feeling of hopelessness. Sinclair Lewis closed one of his novels with a successful businessman telling his beautiful wife, “Deep down we are all just the same. We are desperately unhappy about something—and we don’t know what it is.”

We spend our lives waiting. We bury our treasures. We are intimidated by the giftedness of others, incapacitated by our lack of discipline, and mesmerized by our fear of failure. Our lives aren’t what they should be.

II. God Offers the Hope of His Grace

From captivity, Jeremiah speaks a word of hope. God promises that his people will be slaves no longer. The Messiah is coming from the line of David to fulfill the ancient promise of salvation. Jeremiah does not say a word about the people keeping up their end of the bargain. There is no bargain. There is only grace. This kingdom is dependent not on the goodness of the subjects, but the love of the King.

The game of hide-and-seek has occupied hours of many of our lives. In one version, the person who was “it” could shout, “Alley, alley, outs are in free.” Anyone who was still hiding could return to home base without fear of being caught. The Creator of the universe stands at the home base of heaven calling “Alley, Alley, outs are in free.” Everybody, come home. The game’s over and you’ve won.

III. We Need to Accept God’s Grace

Our refusal of grace does not change God’s grace. We are forgiven even for putting off the celebration. We are not saved by anything we hold. We are saved by the One who holds us. We have only to accept grace and rejoice in God’s unmerited favor.

During the days of sailing merchant ships, one ship was stuck off the coast of South America. Weeks went by without the slightest bit of wind. The ship was helpless and couldn’t move. The sailors were dying of thirst when another ship drifted close enough to hear their shouts for help. They answered, “Let down your buckets.” They found fresh water. Although they were at sea, they were surrounded by the current that came from the Amazon River. They only needed to recognize where they were. Thirsty people are surrounded by Living Water.

As children of God we are free to try and fail, free to make mistakes, and free to rejoice. At the end of it all, there is only grace. (Brett Younger)

A FULL LIFE

1 THESSALONIANS 3:9-13

I remember when I was young pastors and evangelists commenting that we never know when life will end. “Death is near,” they would say. Even young people die.

During my junior and senior high school days, none of their predictions proved true among the young people I knew. But only two years out of high school, two college classmates and my favorite professor died. They weren’t just names in a newspaper. They were flesh-and-blood people that I had laughed, cried, and prayed with at college. These were people I cared about deeply.

I was hundreds of miles away on summer break, August 4, 1967, when they died. They were traveling on assignment for the Christian college that I attended in Oklahoma. When I heard about the tragedy, I was overwhelmed with grief. One of the young men grew up in my hometown of Kansas City. I attended his funeral along with several other classmates. Their lives were too short. Even my “old” professor was only forty-two. Although their lives were short, they all lived full lives.

Paul summarizes what a full life is in 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13.

I. A Full Life Includes Joy

Look at many Christians today. There seems to be little joy in their lives. Why? Fear of failure, rushed hours, lack of trust, lack of prayer, a restless spirit, and anxiety are only a few reasons.

Vernon C. Lyons said that if doing God’s holy will is all that matters to you, then no matter what the rest of life brings, you can find joy.

Do you have joy, real joy, wonderful joy in your heart? If not, let Jesus come into your heart.

II. A Full Life Includes Love

Often, love is misdirected, left out, hurt, and selfish. There are great cracks in the hearts and lives of the human heart. The world needs Godlike love poured down into those cracks.

Love demands ingenuity, consideration, and time. When we learn how to love, we learn how to give the center of ourselves to others and God. Real love gives, forgives, is open, waits, and promises full life. Love doesn’t disappoint—it fulfills and satisfies needs.

The American Civil War began just as one New England couple planned to be married. The man was drafted into the army, so the wedding had to be postponed. The battles were severe, but the man escaped injury. He wrote regularly to his loving fiancee‚ back home in New England. She would pore over his letters, reading and rereading them by the oil lamp of her home.

Abruptly, the letters ceased. Finally a much-anticipated letter arrived, but it was an unfamiliar handwriting. It stated, “There has been a terrible battle fought called the Battle of the Wilderness. It is very difficult for me to tell you this, but I have lost both of my arms. I can’t write for myself. So a friend is writing this letter on my behalf. You are the dearest person to me, but because of my physical condition I feel I should release you from the obligation of our engagement.”

The young woman never answered his letter. Instead, she took the next train and went directly to the hospital where he was being treated. A sympathetic army officer directed her to the young soldier’s cot. The moment she saw her fiance‚ she tearfully threw her arms around his neck and kissed him. She cried, “I will never give you up! These hands of mine will be your hands.”

A full life demonstrates this kind of love.

III. A Full Life Includes Holiness

I read about a plant in South America, called the pitcher plant. On the stalk of the plant just below the leaf is a little cuplike formation that, regardless the size of the “cup,” is always full of water. It is a good illustration of practical biblical holiness. All that God asks is that the heart should be open completely to him and be filled with holiness. (Derl G. Keefer)

THE ULTIMATE SIGN

LUKE 21:25-38

This text is part of Jesus response to a request for a sign of his return. Jesus answer was better than what his listeners hoped to hear.

I. The Desire for a Sign

This was not the first time Jesus was asked for a sign. Often after proving who he was, people asked for more and more signs. He wanted people to believe in his message, to believe in the words of the Scriptures, and respond to God out of hearts full of love and appreciation for who God is. He did not simply want an army of miracle watchers.

Today people would love to know exactly when Jesus will return. Some would want to live like the devil up until the last minute, then repent and get ready for Christ in the hour prior to his return.

Before I accepted Christ as my Savior, I wished I could live my entire life in sin and then become a Christian in the hours before my death. Maximum pleasure, minimum discipleship. Jesus says in verse 34 to avoid that type of thinking. The parable of the foolish bridesmaids makes the same point.

Signs of the end times are not given so we can waste time until we know the day of Christ’s return is at hand.

II. Specific, yet General Signs

The signs given were wars, earthquakes, and famines (v. 10). Rather than signs saying, “Jesus is coming this week,” these events are constant reminders to the church of all ages, “Jesus could come anytime.”

The events Jesus mentioned are all life-threatening events, and are all common around the world. They are intentionally general so that everyone, every week, everywhere, can be reminded: “Jesus could return this week.” Every time you turn on the TV and Brian Williams tells you about the latest fighting somewhere, or an earthquake destroying buildings, or a famine in some little known section of the world, realize God is simply using the six o’clock news as a reminder: “Jesus could come anytime!”

Jesus used the example of a fig tree in verse 30. Is he saying he will return when the fig tree blossoms? Yes, and no. Every year when you see a tree blossoming, you know spring is coming in a few weeks. Likewise, every time you see a tree in bloom, you know Jesus is coming. Perhaps within a few weeks, like spring; perhaps not for another thousand years.

III. The Lesson of the Signs

Thus, the signs of Jesus are reminders he is coming, not warnings telling us when. Jesus warned us not to be deceived (v. 8) or terrified (v. 9), but to watch and pray (v. 36). This is the message of Advent.

Consider this: the people asked for a sign, proof Jesus is who he says he is, and when he is returning. And he gave them a sign: pray always!

They say, “Jesus, are you real? Are you coming? Give me a sign!”

Jesus responds, “Here is your sign: confess your sins, turn from them, take up your cross daily, and follow me. You do these things, and you will know! I will forgive your sins, I will carry your burden, I will change you from the inside out, and I will give you the assurance of your salvation!”

“Jesus, that’s not what we were talking about! We want you to raise some more dead folks. Do something exciting!”

“I am offering a far greater sign than a miracle a stage magician or a skilled physician could duplicate. I’m offering the sign of a changed heart, the ultimate sign!”

Have you experienced that sign in your life? (William Groover)

comments powered by Disqus