Sermon Options: February 3, 2019

December 20th, 2018

THE WORD OF THE LORD

JEREMIAH 1:4-10

Jeremiah's name means "the Lord hurls." Michelangelo painted him on the ceiling of the Sistene Chapel as a man of great strength and sorrow—the weeping prophet. "The Word of the Lord" came to Jeremiah and he became a reluctant conscript (vv. 6-8).

Jeremiah preached a religion of the heart and called for repentance and an ethical lifestyle. He was a prophet for forty years until the fall of Jerusalem in 587 B.C. He was a colorful and courageous prophet who held out the hope of a new covenant (chap. 31).

"The Word of the Lord" is a major biblical motif. The world was created by the Word of God (Gen. 1) . Prophets like Jeremiah received their message and inspiration from the "Word of the Lord" (v. 4). John's Gospel presents Christ as the Living Word of God (1:1-18). Here we see three truths revealed in Jeremiah's prophecy.

I. God Knows Us (v. 5)
Heaven knows its own. The Almighty knew Jeremiah before he was born and appointed him a prophet to the nations. Divine providence was at work in his life. The word here, "I knew you," means more than acquaintance. It is the biblical word for profound and intimate knowledge of a person. In Genesis, it is the word used to describe the intimate knowledge of husband and wife. Adam "knew" Eve and she conceived and gave birth to a son, Cain (Gen. 4:1) .

II. God Is with Us (v. 9)
Jeremiah, like Moses, was a reluctant conscript to the Lord's service. He considered himself too young and inexperienced to become a prophet (v. 6). Jeremiah was hesitant, but the call of God was insistent. Little is much, when God is in it.

God gave Jeremiah the words to speak. Compare the promise of Jesus in Matthew 10:19-20. The Spirit will speak through us.

III. God's Word Is Powerful (v. 10)
It is dynamic and accomplishes God's purpose (see Isaiah 55:10-11). The Word from God can build up or destroy. We tend to take words lightly. The Hebrews considered them powerful—a curse or a blessing were as much deeds as words.

When we were children and someone called us a name, we retorted by saying, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me!" As adults, we know that is not true. Words can hurt terribly or they can encourage and build us up. Words are powerful. How much more is this true of the Word of God?

Jeremiah discovered that divine providence had a plan and purpose for his life. He never escaped that sense of call. How do we discover God's will for our lives?

•Follow your bent, your gifts and preferences.

•Listen for the intuitive impression of the Spirit on your consciousness.

•Enter the open door of opportunity.

God calls every believer to discover his or her ministry. Are you listening? (Alton H. McEachern)

WHERE'S THE LOVE?

1 CORINTHIANS 13:1-13

With all the hatred and violence of this present age, one cannot help but ask, "Where's the love?" Now more than ever, the Christian community needs to shine the light of Christ's unconditional agape love to a world in darkness. But how can the church accomplish this mission if it is divided against itself?

Such was the case for the believers in Corinth. Debates and controversies ripped apart those who claimed to be followers of Christ. In particular, pride over certain spiritual gifts prompted Paul to remind them of the most important quality missing in that family of faith: love.

The deadly tendency for disputes to arise over secondary issues forces us to examine how love responds in truth. Unfortunately, church conflicts and denominational controversies beg the same question, "Where's the love?" So in 1 Corinthians 13 , Paul poetically illuminates where the love of Christ should be found.

I. Christ's Love Should Be Found in Our Gifts
He begins by identifying the futility of exercising spiritual gifts without love. The Holy Spirit gives every believer at least one gift ( Rom. 12:6) . Whether or not one uses it constructively depends upon the attitude of the heart. Genuine love reaches beyond the parameters of selfishness to incorporate concern for all believers first and the world second.

However, the Corinthians valued self-importance. Sure they used their spiritual gifts, but only as it brought glory to themselves. Sensing this egocentric focus, Paul responds by saying, "If I were Superman and could leap tall buildings in a single bound but only used my power selfishly, then I gain nothing." The temporal praise of today vanishes in the shadow of the eternal reward of our God who demonstrated authentic love on the cross. To follow Christ's example, we must exercise our gifts in a spirit of love for the edification of others.

II. Christ's Love Should Be Found in Our Actions
After addressing internal motivation, Paul reveals specific qualities of love to be pursued and potential pitfalls to be avoided. For love is more than an orientation, it is an activity. By the visible demonstration of this virtue, society gains insight into the true identity of Christ and his followers.

One of the major misconceptions in our culture centers upon the definition of love. The world tends to define love according to psychological dispositions and sensual appetites. People fall "in love," one might have a "lover," or a couple might "make love." These fallacies ultimately return to an egotistical understanding of how love satisfies the self.

Paul reminds us that real love does not seek to satiate empty gratifications or to fulfill personal ambitions. Instead, it manifests enduring kindness toward others and righteous zeal for truth.

III. Christ's Love Should Be Found in Our Maturity
One of the greatest ironies in life is that the more we learn, the more we realize how little we know. As technology advances exponentially, scientists have begun to admit that they are left with more questions than answers.

Believers who think they have God figured out should listen to the scientists, and to Paul. For in the concluding verses of this chapter, Paul exposes the imperfections of a faith that dogmatically clings to partial truths. While Christians affirm the objective truths revealed in scripture, they should admit the limitations of all that can be known. Children make wild boasts about their abilities, but mature disciples humbly await that day when perfect truth will be perfectly known. In this way, love triumphs over arrogance as we walk united in humility and respect.

As the church seeks to proclaim good news, let their actions speak as loudly as their words. For people need faith, and they need hope. But greater than these, they need to find love. (Craig C. Christina)

WHO OWNS GOD?

LUKE 4:21-30

Who owns God? This is a strange question; to some it may even sound blasphemous. But look again at the story of Jesus' return to his hometown. At first, everything seemed to go well. The people spoke highly of Jesus. After all, this was one of their own. What wisdom. What graceful speech. The home folks were proud of their own—up to a point.

That point was reached when Jesus dared to reinterpret their religious traditions. Notice the progression of their reception. They went from pride, to bewilderment, to fury. Why? Exactly what did Jesus teach during his inaugural sermon in Nazareth? Consider these ideas.

I. God Is Unpredictable
In verses 25-26, Jesus reminded his hearers of the story from their history of Elijah. During a time of drought in Israel, everyone in the nation suffered. The predictable thing was that God would have heard their prayers and sent rain. But Jesus tried to get his people to realize that God is unpredictable. God sent the prophet Elijah, not to the people of Israel, but to a widow woman in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. She was a foreigner! Elijah brought her comfort by first performing a miracle by replacing the last of her flour and oil. The widow took the last of her food and shared it with Elijah. The result was that the food was replenished. The widow and her son had all they wanted to eat. A little later, the son of this widow got sick and died. Elijah raised him to life.

Why didn't the prophet help the people of Israel? Wouldn't that have been the expected, predictable thing? Yes, it would have, but God is a God of surprises. God is unpredictable in that he does things that normal human wisdom would not anticipate. Grace is one such unpredictable act of God toward us.

II. God Is Uncontrollable
Next, Jesus reminded his hearers of the story of the time when many in Israel had leprosy. The prophet Elisha acted to cleanse one person during his time. But that one person was not a Hebrew. He was Naaman, a Syrian—an outsider! Surely people in Israel did their best to beg God to heal their sick. But God chose to heal a non-Jew. Why? We cannot know all the reasons but perhaps God was trying to teach that he is owned and controlled by no one. God is the Sovereign Lord and chooses whom he will. No group of people can claim him in an exclusive right. God is uncontrollable by humans.

III. God Is Unstoppable
The great irony of this passage is that Jesus was welcomed at first but then rejected because he reminded the people that God is God and the exclusive property of no one. Jesus' own people turned on him. We are told they drove him out of town and took him to the edge of a cliff to throw him off. Now that is an incredible reaction to a sermon!

Luke tells us, "But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way." This, in a sense, is the story of the entire gospel message. People tried to hijack it for their own uses. They tried to set the terms for God's actions. They tried to determine who was "worthy" and who was "unworthy." But Jesus "walks right through them." One scholar says, "There are always people who want God on their terms, but one cannot have God while rejecting God's people."

What is God doing among us? Does he need to "keep on going" because he is not welcomed here on his own terms? Are we trying to control God and predict his actions because we think we have him all figured out? As the people in Jesus' hometown learned, God is unpredictable, uncontrollable, and unstoppable. You see, no one owns God! (Don M. Aycock)

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