“Dying to Self”- March 18, 2018

Scripture LEsson

John 12:20-30 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

20 Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23 Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.

27 “Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30 Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine.

“Dying to Self”

The gospel reading today presents some of the striking paradoxes of the Christian faith. It contains some of the shocking statements of Jesus that turned some of his hearers away.  And in our time, can leave us scratching our heads and wondering whether we are prepared for it. Yet, this is text tells us is the new way of life to which Jesus calls to live, if we truly his followers.

Jesus made the statements contained in this text when two of his disciples, Andrew and Philip took some Greeks who had requested to see him.  Addressing them, the Lord says, “The hour has come for the “Son of Man” to be glorified.” These first words of Jesus, I am sure, did not shock his audience, because they were too familiar with the expression “Son of Man” found in Daniel 7:13.   If anything, this statement certainly excited the hearts of those who heard him.  Daniel 7:13-14 reads;

In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He appeared the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshipped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will have no end.

To the Jews, the Son of Man stood for the undefeatable world conqueror sent by God. So, when Jesus said: “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified,” his listeners would have caught their breath. They would have believed that the mighty armies of heaven were now on the march, and the Champaign of victory was on the move. But to the contrary, when Jesus spoke these words, he did not mean the conquest of armies, but the conquest of the Cross.  He was speaking about his pending death on the cross. This may have left his audience bewildered.

In verse 24, Jesus goes on to explain about his death, the self-giving life to which calls us. This is the new way of life that contrasts with way of life we know today. Christ is using an agricultural illustration to drive home his message. He says “unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many fruits.”

In this analogy, Jesus is saying, only by death comes life.  The grain of wheat is ineffective and unfruitful as long it is preserved as it is in safety and security. Only when the seed is thrown and buried into the cold ground and dies, that it gets new life. It sprouts, grows and produces more fruits. Unless it goes through that process, that seed becomes a single seed.

You and I are a part of about 2.5 billion Christians the world over today because one man gave up his life. It is the life of self-giving that he calls us.

Jesus expands on this concept in verse 25. He says, “The man loves his life will lose it, while the one who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

Christ is not calling us to die or hate ourselves literally. He means the essence of your life or my life is not just centered around you or centered around me. Your life should not just revolve around you as much as that you become the center of your little universe. He wants to put to death the self.  

Each of us must realize that God created us not just for yourself, but as a part of God’s created world, called to be an active participant of God’s mission in this world. This is what gives meaning and purpose of life.

A story is told of a famous evangelist called Christmas Evans, who was always on the move working for Christ. His friends urged him to take things easier, but his answer always was: it is better to burn out than to waste out.

The world’s philosophy says: “Live for self,” but Jesus calls us to die to self. In the words of William Barclay,” the person who live for self is moved by two aims: by selfishness and by the desire for security.

Like Evans friends, sometimes we want to preserve, and secure our lives. We want to ensure that we store up sufficient resources to preserve and keep us secured.

But in his book, “Colors of Hope”, Richard Dahlstrom describes what he calls: Safety First Mentality in these words: Lock your doors at night. Get an alarm system. Save 10 percent and make sure your investment is insured …. Take your vitamins, minerals, etc. Eat lots of soluble fibers. Exercise. Get eight hours of sleep …. Go to church regularly, being certain to drive carefully both on the way there and on the way home (it’s best if your car’s the biggest, because then you’re the safest). Don’t go on mission trips to places where you might contract staph infection, malaria, intestinal parasites, or face a terrorist plot. Risky hobbies? Forget it. Read books instead …. Eat organic. Get a colonoscopy.”

Richard continues, “The safety-first posture is wrong on several levels. First, and most significantly, the good life is never defined by Jesus in terms of either length or comfort. To the contrary, Jesus says that those who seek to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their lives, spilling them out generously in service to others because of love for God and humanity, will find them.

Imagine those of you who are sponsoring kids in Liberia. You have no idea how many persons who are giving life and hope through your assistance.

In our world of instant self-gratification, dying to self is a concept that is not just foreign but also unacceptable. But this is the new way of life that Jesus not only sets the example of but calls us to live.

As we continue this Lent, let’s think about what Jesus will go through for our sake. Despite his deity, it was never an easy mission. In this text, he says his heart is troubled, and wonders what to say. Should I ask the father to save me from this hour? He answers, No. It was the reason why I came to this hour.” He says.

As I close this message, let me leave you with the words from Richard’s book, Colors of Hope, that I quoted earlier. The author writes,

 The Christian life, should be guided by the intentional goal of blessing the lives of the friends, loved ones, and strangers in our midst. We are called to impact a culture that, for all the rhetoric about hope, is overwhelmingly preoccupied with personal peace, prosperity, protection, and survival. Christians should be artists who paint with the colors of hope in a broken world, embodying Christ’s redemptive presence in our personal lives, our work, and our relationships. 

As we follow Christ to the cross, let’s allow the self in us to die, that the will and mission of Jesus come the focus of life.        

May we use our hands, our voice, our time, our strength, our skills, and our money for the work Christ to make a difference in Christ’s name.

God bless you.

“The Depth of God’s Love”- March 11, 2018

Scripture Lesson

Numbers 21:4-9 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; but the people became impatient on the way. The people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.” Then the Lord sent poisonous serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord to take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live.” So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live.

John 3:14-21 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

17 “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. 20 For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. 21 But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”

 

Sermon: The Depth of God’s Love

Anyone who has looked at someone and told them intentionally,”I love you” knows that those words are weighty. They come with a cost, if we mean it. Sometimes we say them without considering their full implications. But this is not the case with God. When we read in scripture that God loves us, or when the preacher tells you that God loves you, these are not empty words, because God’s love for us comes with a very high cost.

In his conversation with Nicodemus in our gospel passage, Jesus pointed to an OT incidence recorded in Numbers 21:4-9, which foreshadowed the redemptive work of Christ on the Cross on Good Friday.

In our OT text, the Isrealites are complaining and murmuring against Moses about the harsh wilderness conditions. Remember this is not the first complaint. At Marah (Exodus 15:22-25), they complained about the taste of the water, and the Lord made the water taste sweet; then they complained about the lack of food (Exodus 16:2-3); and again, the Lord provided manna; then they complained about water (Exodus 17:3). At God’s instruction, Moses struck the rock, water gushed out and they drank; then they complained about meat (Numbers 11:4-6), and God gave them quails (birds). There is this pattern of complaint, Moses intercedes, and God provides or remedy the situation.

But now in numbers 21, they are complaining about everything, and even regretted leaving Egypt. This time they did not just speak against Moses, they spoke against God. “Why have you brought us out of Egypt to die in the wilderness?” They complained! “There is no food; no water, and we detest this miserable food.”

Every additional step we take in life that advances us brings with it its own challenges. We often say, “good things don’t come easy.”

Moreover, in our relationship with God, faith is an indispensable virtue. The Bible says, “without faith, it is impossible to please God”, Hebrews 11:6. God wants us to trust him despite what mountain that may stand before us today.

All the Israelites had to do was to look back and see God’s hands in their journey. Sometimes all you need to do is to look back on your life and see how far God has brought you, instead of complaining about everything before you today.

So, this time, God got angry with the Israelites for their faithlessness and rebellion and punished them. God sent poisonous Snakes that bit them, and many died.

Then the people pleaded with Moses, saying, “We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord to take away the snakes.”

When Moses did, God instructed him to fix a snake and put it on a pole. A victim only had to look up at the snake on the pole to be cured and live. That bronze snake on the pole became a means of God’s grace to heal and restore god’s people from the penalty of their sin. God’s grace is free but it always requires a response from us.

In comparison Jesus says in our gospel text, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so (he) the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him  may have everlasting life” (John 3:14-15). Like the bronze snake on the pole, Jesus Christ provides the perfect remedy for the sins of broken humanity through the cross that he takes upon himself on Good Friday. But unlike the snake that provided healing and recovery just for that moment, Jesus provides forgiveness and eternal life.” This verse proclaims that God’s extravagant love for us is a self giving act. This is the depth to which God went just for you and me. The first thing we see here is that:

The Depth of God’s Love Reveals its Costliness

It cost God his only son as was read in the 16th verse of our text. “For God so loved the world that He gave his only son.” And it cost Jesus his life.

Jesus says, greater love has no man than this; that a man lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13). It is this love that led the hymn writer to wonder: “What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul. What wondrous love is this, that cause the Lord of  Life to lay aside his crown for my soul.”

Sometimes non-Christians and even so Christians asks the question, Why did it have to cost the life of Jesus Christ? Why couldn’t the almighty God just pronounce forgiveness of sin?

Here it is. God does not violate His own law. there is no contradiction in Him. The scripture says: The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). and there is no forgiveness of sin without the shedding of blood (Hebrews 9:22). That is why each year, the Old Testament priests had to slaughter animals to preform the sacrifice on behalf of the community. But in Jesus Christ, Paul says, “He entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves, but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption” (Hebrews 9:12).

Jesus’ death satisfies the demand of the law of sin. He will take our place on Good Friday.

Secondly- The Depth of God’s love reveals how little we deserve it:

We know someone’s love for us by how little we deserve it. If we have treated someone well all the time and done all that is expected of us, it will not prove much when he loves us, but if he loves us when we have offended him, shunned him, and disdained him, that will prove a great love for us. The more undeserving we are, the more amazing the depth of his love for us. Therefore Romans 5:8 says: But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” He loves us inspite of; not because of.

Finally- The Depth of God’s love shows our true worth and Value:

In our youth group two weeks ago, we discussed the topic: In God we are valued.

There we learned that we don’t find our true value and worth in external things, like: our looks, our abilities, skills, background, athletic ability, relationship, or what others may say about us. We find it in God, as revealed in Genesis 1:27 (We are created in the image and likeness of God), but our text also reveals our value and worth. That God’s only Son would die for me and you? That it took the life of Jesus on the cross for our sake? Think about it!

Among several things, Peter says we are God’s special possession. This means that nothing external can diminish our values and worth. not even being handicapped, or aged, or ill, or as society makes us to feel sometimes. Our value and worth are not found in any labels of society. But in the price paid by Christ. 

As we celebrate Lent and move closer to the cross, let’s remember that it’s all because of you and me. Let’s embrace, or continue to embrace the Light that Christ brings to the world and reflect that light.

As we experience God’s love, may we become channels of that love to the world around us.

Caring for God, by Caring for the Least of These” Nov. 26, 2017

Nov. 26, 2017

Text: Ezekiel 34: 11-16, 20-24

Matthew 25:31-46

Theme: Caring for God, by Caring for the Least of These”

What would happen if Jesus were to show up today in our midst clearly identifiable as a destitute person? Surely, there will be no shortage of persons wanting to care for him. But the truth is, Jesus is in our midst right here and now. Each day the opportunity to care for Jesus Christ is available to us. It shows up in the faces and conditions of the needy among us.

This is the biblical truth that Jesus unveils to us in his parabol found Matthew 25. When we Acknowledge that the Source of all we have is God, then it becomes easy to honor God with some of what we have to care for the needy.

God is the Source of all Nov. 19, 2017

Nov. 19, 2017

Text: Deuteronomy 8:7-18

Luke 17:11-19

Few days from now we will be celebrating Thanksgiving, a Day when give thanks for family, career, job, good health, nation, and every other thing we have. As we celebrate, one place that signifies all that we give thanks for is the family meal today. It typifies the abundance of the American life. But As we celebrate this year, there is a great caution that God gave to the children of Israel which is very essential for us today.

On the verge of entry into the Promised Land, God told the Israelites that the land He was about to give them to take possession of is one of abundance. There will be no scarcity of food, and minerals. Then God warns that “when you shall have eaten your full, built pleasant houses, and sit in your recliners, don’t forget me.”

How often we easily forget that God is the source of all we have. This passage reminds us that God is the Source of all we are and all we have. Therefore, we should acknowledge Him and give Him His deserved glory. This is what one of the healed lepers did. He returned to acknowledge as the sources of his healing and thanked him. This is exactly what we are called to do during Thanksgiving and every day.

 

 

 

October 22, 2017 Allowing Loss to Keep us From Appreciating the good.

Many Christians desire to seek the will of God for their lives. A means by which we do this is through gratitude. The scripture urges us to “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Jesus Christ for you; I Thessalonians 5:18. It is God’s will that we be thankful; for gratitude is the source of a joyful life. But there are attitudes and behavior that run counter, or hinder our spirit of gratitude.
Through this four-week upcoming sermon series entitled: “IMPEDIMENTS TO A LIFE OF GRATITUDE; we will be get to know those attitudes and behaviors and guide against them.

Scripture for this week is Deut. 34:1-12

October 08, 2017 Withholding From God.

Many Christians desire to seek the will of God for their lives. A means by which we do this is through gratitude. The scripture urges us to “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Jesus Christ for you; I Thessalonians 5:18. It is God’s will that we be thankful; for gratitude is the source of a joyful life. But there are attitudes and behavior that run counter, or hinder our spirit of gratitude.
Through this four-week upcoming sermon series entitled: “IMPEDIMENTS TO A LIFE OF GRATITUDE; we will be get to know those attitudes and behaviors and guide against them.

Scripture for this week is Matthew 22:15-22

October 1, 2017 Entitlement

Many Christians desire to seek the will of God for their lives. A means by which we do this is through gratitude. The scripture urges us to “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Jesus Christ for you; I Thessalonians 5:18. It is God’s will that we be thankful; for gratitude is the source of a joyful life. But there are attitudes and behavior that run counter, or hinder our spirit of gratitude.
Through this four-week upcoming sermon series entitled: “IMPEDIMENTS TO A LIFE OF GRATITUDE; we will be get to know those attitudes and behaviors and guide against them.

Scripture for this week is Matthew 22: 1-14