Sermon Options: July 2, 2023

May 25th, 2020


GENESIS 22:1-14

The possibility of a child to bless the home of Abraham and Sarah hinged on a promise given by Jehovah and seemed only a remote possibility. After all she was in her nineties, and he was about one hundred. Who would ever dream that it could happen? But nothing is impossible with God, and Sarah became pregnant with her "child of promise." Both she and Abraham rejoiced! She cried out for the entire world to hear, "God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me" (Gen. 21:6 NIV).

Over the years, Isaac brought smiles to Abraham's face and laughter to his mother. He had been worth waiting for. But it seems that in the beginning verses of chapter 22 of Genesis, God was about to play a cruel joke on this old couple. Out of nowhere comes God's voice saying, "Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah." So far so good, but then the sadistic joke—"Offer him there as a burnt offering" (v. 2).

Can you imagine Abraham's shock? God could not be asking that of him. Other people sacrificed their children, but they were heathen! What about the promise of a child? What about the promise of a great nation coming from Abraham's seed? Would it die on the mountainside? What about Sarah's feelings—her great love for this boy who had brought incredible joy into her life? And what about Abraham's happiness? No, it just couldn't be God speaking! But it was God, and Abraham knew it. He had to respond as he had done all his life. A willingness to obey God pervaded Abraham's spirit and life. As willingness dominated Abraham, so it must dominate us. Three thoughts stand out in the text.

I. The Willingness of Abraham's Availability (v. 1)
Abraham says, "Here I am." Great people of faith have always made availability their trademark. Moses (Exod. 3:4), Joshua ( Josh. 1:16) , Samuel ( 1 Sam. 3:10) , David (1 Sam. 17), Isaiah (Isa. 6:8), and Jesus (Luke 22:42) are a few examples. Availability means a readiness to do what God wants and wills. One of Robert Louis Stevenson's earliest memories concerned the old lamplighter who passed down the streets of Edinburgh as darkness would fall. One by one he would light the street oil lamps. Stevenson recalled years later, "What I remember best about the lamplighter was he always left a light behind him."

The availability of God's faithful people has left a light behind them for others to follow.

II. The Willingness to Sacrifice (vv. 2-5)
As Abraham and Isaac traveled together, the idea of sacrificing his son must have troubled Abraham. It certainly would trouble me! I have a son whom I love, who is in his mid-twenties, about the age that scholars believe Isaac was at this time in the story. I cannot imagine the idea of human sacrifice of my son. However, at an altar before God and people, when he was a baby in arms, my wife and I dedicated him to God. We stated that whatever came, he was God's for time and eternity. Whatever God wanted for Jeff's life, we were sacrificing our will for God's will. Those were not empty words.

God asks that our human desires for our children be sacrificed on the altar of life so that his desires and will might be accomplished. Will you do that?

III. The Willingness to Be the Sacrifice (v. 9)
Our human struggling must cease so that we can be sacrificed on the altar of God's purpose. Isaac's will was sacrificed. Our question to God must include a commitment. Where, God, do you want me to go? Should I stay? How much time do I give? Is this enough to give? Take me, God—lock, stock, and barrel—to be yours. Are you willing to climb on the altar of sacrifice today, to jump into the fire of God's Spirit and will? If you do, you will come out a different person! (Derl G. Keefer)


ROMANS 6:12-23

In Paul's letters, the word therefore serves as something of a hinge; it connects a theological principle with an application or implication of that principle. In verse 11, Paul has just noted that as believers, we are "dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus." Therefore, there are some implications to being alive to God in Christ.

Paul wants us to understand that being alive to God in Christ produces a triumphant existence characterized by an entirely new kind of life. What does it mean to be alive to God in Christ Jesus?

I. Being Alive to God Means We Have a New Lifestyle (vv. 12-14)
The power of sin has been broken, and we are free to live for God rather than being bound to sin. Indeed, living godly lives is not an option of the Christian walk; it is a necessity.

Paul assumes that sin is still present and still a concern for believers. We have not been mystically transformed into a state in which we are no longer tempted; we are tempted, and we do fail at times. But the believer must not allow sin to reign or hold dominion in his or her life; Christ alone must be Lord.

You and I face the constant temptation to yield to sin; sometimes we even rationalize that it's just a "tiny sin" and won't do any permanent harm. Bill Tuck tells of a buzzard flying over the Niagara River on a bitterly freezing day, when the bird spotted an animal carcass floating in the river toward the great falls. The buzzard knew it could feed for a brief time before his "dinner" went over the falls, so the bird landed on the carcass. But moments later as the falls approached and the buzzard attempted to fly away, it discovered that its talons had frozen to the carcass, and it went over the falls to its destruction along with its prey.

Evil can be seductive, and it may seem harmless, but we have been made alive to God in Christ, and sin has no place in our lives. We have been called to a new lifestyle.

II. Being Alive to God Means We Have a New Priority (vv. 15-21)
Paul uses slavery as a metaphor for human existence. It is not a question that we are slaves; the only question is to what or to whom do we owe our allegiance? We were once slaves to sin, but Christ has purchased us. We owe our allegiance to God; we serve a new master.

Whereas sin once held dominant influence over our lives, we now have a new priority: to live for Christ. You cannot be a slave to two different masters, for slavery implies an absolute allegiance and obedience. We are to be just as wholehearted in our commitment to walk with Christ as we once were in our bondage to sin.

What is the ultimate priority in your life? If priorities are measured by our investment in them—in time, resources, enthusiasm—what would you identify as your most significant priority?

III. Being Alive to God Means We Have a New Future (vv. 22-23)
In our former life as slaves to sin, our future was mapped out: death. The inevitable consequence of sin is death. The word Paul uses, wages, was the term used to describe the payment given to Roman soldiers. His point is clear: If you serve sin and evil, you will receive the promised payment for such service, which is death.

By contrast, because we have been freed from sin and placed into a new relationship with God in Christ, we have a new future: eternal life. It is not something we could earn, like wages; it is a free gift, totally at God's discretion. It is a new kind of life, to be experienced both now and beyond this present life.

That is how we are able to live triumphantly: we have been freed by Christ from our bondage to sin, and we are assured of eternal life with God. What a great motivation to live true to the One who has freed us! (Michael Duduit)


MATTHEW 10:40-42

Have you ever been en route to a social engagement and felt suddenly ill? You will recall the sense of weariness and the hope that you can manage the hours ahead. If you are lucky, you will also have had the experience of hosts who somehow made you feel better over the course of the visit. Something happened in the encounter that was healing or restorative. I believe it is no accident that our word hospitality contains the word hospital , for in genuine hospitality, well-being reigns and healing is an honored guest.

I. To Render Hospitality Is a Divine Gift
In the Gospel text, we have a brief teaching of Jesus that was directed to the disciples as they embarked on a mission. Earlier in his directions Jesus had warned the disciples of hostility and danger, but here he speaks of those who will welcome them. He says that since they are on a mission for him, anyone who welcomes those coming in his name welcomes him and God who sent him. The ancient Gaels of Ireland had a rune or incantation of hospitality. It goes like this:

I saw a stranger yestreen;
I put food in the eating place,
drink in the drinking place,
music in the listening place;
And he blessed myself and my house,
my cattle and my dear ones.
And the lark said in her song
often, often, often,
goes the Christ in the stranger's guise,
often, often, often,
goes the Christ in the stranger's guise.

Jesus spoke of the rewards of those who render hospitality. He said those who welcome a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet's reward. The prophets were not rewarded handsomely in Jerusalem, as Jesus later lamented. Similarly with the reward of those who welcome a righteous person in the name of a righteous person; they are to receive a righteous person's reward, and all we have to do is look at the story of Job to see what that might be. Clearly, those who give a drink of cool water to the disciples are placing themselves under the same threat of danger as their guests and the rewards mentioned make them equals.

II. To Receive Hospitality Is a Divine Gift
But this passage is not directed at those who practice hospitality. It is written for those on the receiving end. It is not a directive but a promise, and it is a promise that contemporary disciples still need to hear. In the midst of suffering there will be signs of God's favor, just as Simon of Cyrene came to carry Jesus' cross on the way to Calvary.

We may not be comfortable seeing ourselves as in need, but all of us are needy at one time or another. The dangers to discipleship differ from those in Jesus' time, but they are still here. We may not have the threat of a life-or-death struggle, but we face profound cultural indifference that can kill in another way. Yet, even within the tedium and discouragement that ordinary people encounter in living out their faith, Jesus promises gifts of grace. Most likely you have experienced them. Perhaps you did not recognize them as such, but you had the experience: the concerned and encouraging word, the warm meal that fed body and soul, the unexpected letter that renewed your faith. Take them, our Lord says, you who are weary and disheartened; receive this gift, this hospitality. It is a sign of God's favor. It comes with healing in its wings. Rest and be welcome. Let yourself occasionally be the cherished guest, for Christ's sake and in his name. (Penelope Duckworth)

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