Sermon Options: May 26, 2019

March 30th, 2019

RESPONDING TO GOD'S CALL

ACTS 16:9-15

God spoke to Paul through a dream directing him to preach the gospel in Macedonia and he followed through without the assurance of having every need provided. Even on the journey, God was working to bring the gospel to people who would not have the chance to hear it without Paul's obedience. How often could we become someone's hope if we would only follow through obediently and take God's message without insisting on having all the details assured to us?

I. A Call for Action
Paul's dream of the "Macedonia call" is one that depicts the emotion of the Christian mission. In seeing a man begging for help, our hearts are touched with compassion along with Paul's. However, we must recognize that Paul is seeing the spiritual reality of the need in Macedonia. In the physical realm, Paul and his companions would not see needy people begging for what they had to offer. Instead, they would confront the powers of darkness and be persecuted by those they were sent to help.

Spiritual realities are greater, but most times harder to grasp. People need God and need for us to respond to that need on behalf of the kingdom. However, they may not know for what their spirits are crying. They may not give a fair hearing to believers who offer the cure for what ails them. Our call to share the gospel is not relative to human response or outward circumstances. God calls us to see the weakened and needy souls of humanity crying out for the gospel which we are called to share.

II. Unfolding the Nets
Paul's obedience to the call of sharing the gospel with those whom the Lord had directed him, resulted in meeting Lydia. She is described as a worshiper of God, yet there seems to be something missing in her spirituality. "God opens her heart" to Paul's message. The purpose of Paul's vision begins to materialize. If the call was for Lydia alone, she was worth the cost of Paul's obedience to it. God purposed to "open her heart." She may not have been the most impressive convert from our standpoint, but to a loving Father, she was more than worth disturbing the plan of his apostle.

After her baptism and those of her household, she offered provisions for the band of evangelists. The seeds of obedience on the part of Paul sprang forth into obedience in her life, and in return provided for the work of God. God provided when his servants responded positively to his call without the promise of provisions. It was a matter of faith. For us today too, God will lead us and direct us in ways that will require faith, but through obedience he will provide for the journey and the needs that are incurred.

Who knows how many men and women the Lord has ahead of us in our journey? They are awaiting our act of obedience. They may even be worshipers of God, but waiting for someone just like us to explain the gospel and lead them to a full faith in Christ. Perhaps we were at one time that person waiting for someone to come and share with us. Listening hearts and obedient actions are essential tools to accomplish God's program of evangelism. (Joseph Byrd )

HOW SOON IS SOON?

REVELATION 21:10, 22–22:5

When our children were young enough to still be excited about Santa Claus' coming we faced every parent's Christmas Eve problem. How do you get the kids in bed and asleep—and sleep enough yourself so that Christmas morning you're not too exhausted to enjoy the wonder of a child's delight and surprise at what came in the night. As I was putting my youngest to bed she asked, "Daddy when will Santa come?" I replied, "Soon", to which she responded, "How soon is soon?"

The book of Revelation claims "these words are trustworthy and true" regarding "the things that must soon take place." We want to know, "how soon is soon?"

I. To the Mountaintop
The night before Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis on April 4, 1968 he gave a speech at Claibourn Temple where he eloquently proclaimed, "I've been to the mountaintop . . . death does not worry me." The Bible opens with the powerful phrase, "In the beginning God. . . ." It concludes with John's vision of the new heaven and new earth. In verse 10 he mentions "a great, high mountain" as he describes for us his vision of the new Jerusalem. He echoes Ezekiel's description of the new temple in Ezekiel 40 . In both instances we are reminded that God took Moses up to a mountaintop to see the promised land before he died.

How soon is soon? We've been to the mountaintop. God has declared what he is going to do. Now we must wait and serve with patience and faith. The Christian idea of hope is more than a mere wish. It is a confident expectation for the future based upon God's past acts. From the perspective of Revelation we have a confident expectation of the future based upon what God has promised he will do in that future.

II. No Temple
God's unmediated and undiluted presence will be the great wonder of the final consummation of the age. John describes the new heaven as a place with no Temple (v. 22), no representative dwelling place for God. Why? Because God himself will dwell with his people. You don't need a facsimile when you have the original. The unmediated presence of God will also be evidenced by the submission of all peoples to his ultimate sovereignty. The gates of this new city are never closed. There is never any night nor any need of artificial light. God himself is the light of this final abode. The imagery is both beautiful and breathtaking. When will all this take place? Soon. But how soon is soon?

III. Paradise Regained
In Genesis we see the primordial couple in a saga of Paradise lost. Revelation concludes with a wonderful glimpse of a river and the "tree of life." That which was lost in the garden of Eden has now been restored. God will be seen face to face. His character will be indelibly stamped upon his children. Humankind will recover the full expression of the imago dei lost through the curse of sin and death. We are told that the chief end of man is to know and to enjoy God forever. One day that will become a universal reality. When? Soon. But how soon is soon?

By the time he was nine years old George Frideric Handel was writing cantatas. A few years later he played before the king of Prussia. Events took an unexpected turn. His father died. His music fell out of popular favor. Bankrupt and in despair he closeted himself in his room and in twenty-four days wrote his inspiring oratorio Messiah based in part on the visions of Revelation 7 and 19. He later exclaimed, "I did see the heavens opened and the great God himself seated on his throne."

We have to see with eyes of faith what God is going to do. We should pray as William Penn prayed, "Lord you have gone to prepare a place for us; prepare us for that happy place." Our job is not to draw diagrams of the new Jerusalem or to create time lines determining its date and place of arrival. We are to make ourselves available to the grace of God that we might be prepared for that happy place—soon. Perhaps sooner than we think! (L. Joseph Rosas, III)

LOVE AND OBEDIENCE

JOHN 14:23-29

"If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. . . . He who does not love me will not obey my teaching" (vv. 23-24 NIV).

Jesus tells his disciples that if they love him they will obey his teachings. In other words, he says, "If you really love me you'll do what I say." Love serves as a motivation for obedience and obedience is one of the tests of real love (cf. 14:15, 21).

I. Love Is the Only Real Motivation for Obedience
Love is the highest form of motivation. After all, it was love that motivated God to send his Son to the earth to die for us (John 3:16) and it was love that motivated Jesus to give himself up for us (1 John 3:16) . All through the New Testament love is lifted up as the ultimate motivation for doing what is right and holy ( John 13:34-35; Eph. 5:25 ff; Col. 3:12-14). And love for Christ is the highest motivation for obeying his teachings.

Of course, love isn't the only motivation. We can obey without love. For instance, we can obey out of a sense of fear of what will happen if we don't obey or out of a sense of Christian duty instead of out of love. Or we can obey because we agree with the truth of the teaching without believing in the truth giver (Jesus). But Jesus calls his disciples to obey out of their love for him and for God. It is the truest and purest motivation. The other types may leave us in the lurch in moments of temptation or persecution or doubt, but not love.

Thus, when we obey out of love, Jesus has promised that God will return that love and He and Jesus will come to abide with us. Obedience to Jesus' teachings will bring God's presence into our lives.

II. Lack of Love Motivates Us to Disobedience
Just as real love for Jesus will lead to obedience, a lack of love for him will lead to the opposite, an attitude of disregard or disobedience to the teachings of Jesus. Oftentimes, if love isn't our primary motivation for obedience, we will find ourselves trying to obey out of our own inner strength and for lesser motives. In a pinch, our own strength or those lesser motives may fail us.

It does need to be stated, however, that lack of obedience does not always indicate a lack of love just as obedience does not always indicate real love. We can fail to obey for many reasons other than a lack of love. For instance, we can fail to fully understand a teaching or we can be blind to the implications of a teaching. Of course, sin in our lives often leads us to act in ways that go counter to Jesus' teachings, even when we love the Lord. So don't be too quick to judge others or yourself.

III. Believers Obey Because They Love
Of course, while the other situations are possible, what would be most tragic is for a Christian to not obey because of a lack of love. The implication of Jesus' words are that if we do not obey due to a lack of love, he and God do not abide with us. Failure to love leads to lack of obedience which leads to losing God's loving presence in our lives. Jesus makes it emphatically clear that these words of encouragement and warning are not just his words, they are from the Father. We need to be sure of our motivation for serving the Lord. Our hearts can tell us that for sure, but be sure, God knows the truth and cannot be fooled! (Michael M. Jones)

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