Wednesday, June 27, 2012

God's Lost and Found

I apologize, I have once again become very lazy in coming out with posts.  I've been a little busy, but most definitely not busy as I say I've been, that much is for certain.  The post on this sermon comes from almost three weeks ago.  Of course, I did lose my notes and my Bible for a time, but they were found on Sunday.  :)

Anyway, this sermon focuses in on the beginning of Luke chapter 15.  Primarily the two parables:  The Lost Sheep, and the Lost Coin.  Unfortunately, I feel like it's a bit too long to put up here, so I would ask of you to look up Luke 15: 1-10.  If you do not have a Bible, just Google it, and that should take care of it. :)

Really, so many sermons of different types can be preached from Chapter 15.  SO many.  Lots.  But we see several things in just the first little verses of the selection.  The focus that we'll take is looking at how God goes to great effort to seek and find the lost...and that He really REJOICES when the Lost have been Found.

I.  Sinners Are Lost Until God Finds Them.

Pay attention the seemingly Biblical description of Sinners here:  They are Lost, not unsaved.  It's not that everyone is just 'unsaved'.  We are all God's, and we were before.  But our society has rebelled against and forgotten.

Look at the Pharisees' comment when they see Him receiving 'sinners' and 'tax collectors'.  They GRUMBLE and COMPLAIN.  I believe you see several different things in Jesus' response.  Oh how I wish Luke could have gone into more detail about HOW Jesus responded.  When I read over his response in the parable, I just feel as if He seems to be laughing at their complaints.  I also think that verse four holds some interesting stuff.

"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?"

I believe that in saying this, Jesus gets a little bit more into their hearts.  They don't really care for anyone...they don't care about the sinners and tax collectors around them.  In their eyes, they are just 'filth'.  But that's not how Jesus sees them.  It almost seems as if Jesus is asking a sarcastic question...saying that this OUGHT to be the way they go about things...but yet they don't.  And if they don't...what does that say of them to everyone else?  They're heartless, and cold.  So many times, we act like this:  Heartless and cold, not really caring.  We say we do, but we don't really...and we become self righteous.  (Which we'll get into more with the Parable of the Prodigal Son, which will be the next blog post. :)).

Another thing that the Pharisees may be thinking:  It's just one sheep, you have ninety-nine others.  Why is the absence of one such a big deal?  But Jesus says it is.  He cares more for the one that is lost then the ninety-nine that are found and safe.  The other thing is that sheep are 'dumb'.  They can't find their way back to their master, the master must go and find the sheep.  In the same way, we are represented as sheep, my friends.  We are unable to find our way back to Him...but that doesn't stop Him from coming after us.

Which leads us to our second point:

II.  God Goes To GREAT Effort To Seek Lost Sinners.

It even went to the point where He gave His very LIFE for us to be found.  What Love is this?  What Grace is this?  Too much for my weak-willed mind to understand or fully define.  Let's take a look at both of the Parables at the same time.

What does the Shepherd and the woman do similarly?

Well, they both search UNTIL they have found what they're looking for.  They don't ever give up, or rest.  They constantly work at pursuing and seeking...until they have found it.  In the same way, my friends...That's how Jesus comes after us.  He won't give up, and He will keep after us, even if we try to get further away from Him.  Aye, you could even say that Jesus used these two examples to try and describe how He cares for us:  But I tell you, although it's a GREAT really doesn't even completely cover it, it just gives us an idea.  How great my friends, is this idea?

He takes the initiative in seeking us, and as I've already pointed out, it doesn't matter to Him the personal cost of this search.  This then gets us to our third point:

III.  God Rejoices Greatly When Lost Sinners Come To Repentance.

We will see more of this in the following post on the Prodigal Son.  But we still see it here as well:  The Pharisees care nothing about those being found.  They think that they're found and they're in the right, but that's just the point:  They've deceived themselves into thinking that they are one of the elect, when really, they're just as lost as anyone else is.

The real call for those of us who are already Christians is this:  Jesus rejoices greatly when the Lost are Found.  He invites us to take part in that joy.  He also invites us to take part in the search for Lost souls.

How joyful were we when we were found?  I've grown up a Christian myself...but I never really understood how sinful I was until last year.  I experienced a joy that one can't really even fathom...and when others are found by Christ, that'll be their reaction.  Don't we want to be a part of that search?  Don't we want to come alongside them and rejoice with them?

Here's something else:  Even our great joy at being saved and found cannot even come close to the joy that God has in finding us!  He is in rejoicing of an amount that no word or picture can accurately describe.  He wants us to taste that joy by sharing His heart for the Lost.  When we see His heart for the Lost accurately, it's really powerful.  Desiring to follow and be like our Lord...we can't get such a heart as His, but we can imitate it to the best of our abilities.

We are represented by the sheep:  We aren't of really true value.  But then we're also represented by a coin: Not that WE are precious, but God DEEMS us as precious.  To Him, we're all precious.  No matter who you are and what you have done...You're precious to Him.  Us sinners of evil and filth, (and I deem myself really high on the list of the worst) are precious to Him.  Mind blown.

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Cost of Discipleship

Yesterday's sermon was really strong.  We're talking REALLY strong.  At least it was for my case.  It comes from Luke 14:  25-35.  That's a lot of verses, but I'm going to put it on here anyway.

"25 Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.
34 “Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? 35 It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

My pastor came up with a first point that at first confused me.

I.  It Is Possible To Follow Christ Superficially.

Let me describe this meaning.  (At first, I did not get it at all).  This comes in verse 25.  'Now Great Crowds accompanied Him, and he turned and said to them.'  If you think about it for a minute, you notice that there's a lot following Him.  But Jesus turns and says some shocking things.  So you kind of get the sense by 'superficially' that it's not 'truthfully'.  There were lots in that group that just wanted to see signs.

From the past teaching, we learned that His Gospel was Free.  Yes, Salvation is free, all you have to do is Believe (and follow) Jesus.  As you follow Christ, you sacrifice all else.  He bought you with His own precious Blood, and since He gave it all for you, wouldn't it make sense to give all to Him?

Another thing is that some were following just to have better lives.  But Jesus denounces that theory.  We don't follow just for our own good or the sake of following, we must follow Him as one would follow his master and do all that his Master has commanded of him.  You cannot see Him as just the Savior, without seeing Him as the Lord of your very life.  He is the Master, and calls you how to live.  That brings us to the second point.

II.  To Follow, We MUST 'Sit Down' and Consider the Cost.

We need to consider the phrases:  "Sit down and count the cost" and "sit down first and deliberate".

We must consider and count the cost of every single activity we do.  (Not literally, necessarily, but pretty closely).  Sure, the Holy Spirit does move in you on a quick moment, but for the most part, we need to stop and consider things.  It's not that we consider the cost of following Him as what we lose, but how He asks us to follow Him.

And then Jesus starts to say some 'shocking' things, and these things that He says have been vastly misunderstood by some people.  What He says in verse 26 needs some careful, and special attention.  It seems like a contradiction to the rest of the Bible, but it's not.  He's saying that you must hate your family in comparison with your love for Jesus.  At the moment, that doesn't hold very much credibility with us.

But maybe I can help you understand that with this description:  Think of the Twelve.  They left their families to follow Him.  That makes me think that this means, if you want to follow Jesus, and your family doesn''s better for you to choose to follow Him rather then stay with your family.

The next one is something that I struggle with.  We must hate our own life.  Now, see, in that literal sense, I'm completely fine with it.  Of course, I don't really hate my life anymore...but back in 2011, I did.  But here's the point:  He means that if you're under persecution, you must not renounce Him on account of your life.  In other words, be willing to get killed for your views on Christianity.  In America, at the moment, that's not really something we have to worry about.  But, what if you wish to be a Missionary to China or a similar country that is very violent towards Christian thoughts?  That will definitely come into play.  So the issue with me, is that I do think I would be able to hand my life over to another, since I almost took it myself on more then one occasion.

We must carry our own Cross.  This one has been viewed differently at nearly every turn.  My mom pointed out that it meant something different in older Baptist teaching.  It seemed to lean more towards a 'works' thing.  As if somehow, we try to make our own way after Christ has already done it.  'Carrying Our Cross' is a very interesting picture.  Back in those days, criminals were forced to pick up their cross and carry it to their execution site.  Don't misunderstand me:  Not all of us will be martyred for our faith, as I've already said.  But this is what it represents:  Finality.  When we pick up our cross, there's no turning back.  It's a really hard thing to grasp.

We are also to give up all our possessions for Him.  I'm not saying we go and sell everything we have and give the money to a charity.  What I AM saying, is this:  If an item in our possession becomes too central in our aim that it blocks Christ, we need to toss it away.  Or, He may call us at some point to give it away for a cause that He's moving.  It's hard to discern what that may be, but it's probably more of a 'feeling' thing.  Going along this command, He is to be higher then anything else in life.

For me personally, there are some things that greatly affected me.  It went along the lines of hating your life, as I went through above.  Along those lines, I got to thinking about how low I hold myself.  As I said, I don't really actually 'hate' my life anymore.  But I hold myself in low places.  In practicality, I don't hold myself as being a better person then anyone else, however, I hold that I'm in a better spot because of what God has done for me.

On Saturday night, I went to a dance party after a Graduation ceremony.  I got really sick...but even still, I really wanted not to dance, because it's 'not my thing.'.  But...WHY is it not my thing?  Everyone seems to enjoy it.  I take joy in other ways, but it's not really 'joyful' circumstances.  I never really liked dancing or parties because it was too close to what the world enjoys.  But in reality, it's not quite so.  Man took partying to another level that in Heaven, isn't intended.  However, God does call us to 'sing and dance'.  And I realize that in my low spot, I don't want anything to do with something that to me feels almost worldly (even if it's not quite).  And I look down on those who do it with a judging eye.

What I have failed to realize as well, is that...Low and Broken is its own source of arrogance and pride.  I take too much pride in the fact of what God has done for me, and feel that He has placed me higher then others.  But it's really odd, see, because I'm not wrong in what I'm looking at.  I'm half-wrong in how I look at it, and half-right.  I have the right intentions and thoughts, but yet end up at the wrong way of how it is.  So odd, is everything.  The main point, however, is I'm prideful and arrogant, and desperately need to change.