Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Seeking God’s Heart – A Faithful Servant

This new series is based upon 2 Samuel. The general message outlines were written by Pastor Andy as part of a project for LifeWay to coincide with the quarter’s Explore the Bible Sunday School material. Because LifeWay owns the copyright, for full disclosure, a link to the original sermon idea is provided here.
https://s3.amazonaws.com/lifewayblogs/wp-content/uploads/sites/83/2014/06/16122345/sermons_2018_sum_session06.pdf

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Success. The word conjures up many thoughts. We can debate what the nature of success is or how one achieves success or even the benefits of being successful. But for the Christian, the question must be, “How does God define success?” This question may also generate a good deal of debate based upon how well or how much someone does something. But the simplest answer to the question can be found in one word – faithfulness. The word faithful can be broken down to mean “full of faith.” We are faithful when we live in faith and live by faith. But that is more difficult to do than we might think. We can be faithful to our family, our jobs, our friends, and certainly to God. In fact, our passage this week (2 Samuel 11) talks a great deal about faithfulness – toward man and toward God. But to truly be faithful, we must consider that our service and love for God is expressed by our service and love toward others (Mark 12:30-31; 1 John 4:20-21).

2 Samuel 11 involves three warriors – David, Joab, and Uriah. Although each of these men had different responsibilities (David as king, Joab as commander, Uriah as soldier), each generally served his leader faithfully. However, the great lesson for us today is that like David, our faithfulness will be severely tested at times. The question is how will we respond? Hopefully, like David, we will find ourselves turning back to God through repentance – for truly that is the only way we can be found faithful in the end.

But before we get to David, let us begin by reviewing how Uriah and Joab were faithful.

Uriah: Faithful in Duty

Everything we know about Uriah shows him to be faithful to his duty. Offered the chance to be with his wife, he did not leave because of a sense of duty. The Bible paints a very positive picture of Uriah; we do not know any of his faults. (We do know he did get drunk, but only because the king made him – v. 13.) We also know that Uriah was more than just an ordinary soldier – he was one of David’s trusted warriors. 2 Samuel 23.39 shows that Uriah was one of David’s mighty men. So, Uriah was faithful to his king and to his duty. And that faithfulness is what ultimately got him killed. Consider four ways that Uriah was faithful.
  • Uriah slept at the king’s door instead of his bed. (2 Sam. 11:9-11)
  • Uriah slept with the king’s servants, but not in his own bed (2 Sam. 11:12-13)
  • Uriah delivered a letter (his death sentence) to his commander (2 Sam. 11.14-15)
  • Uriah fought on the frontlines as commanded (2 Sam. 11.16-17)

Uriah was faithful in his duty. And that duty included being faithful to his commander.

Joab: Faithful in Command

Joab was a faithful commander of the Israelite army, but he was not always faithful to David (he killed Abner out of revenge for having killed his brother (see 2 Samuel 3.26-30). Joab was a nephew of David (1 Chronicles 2:16) and he was also another of the mighty men of David (2 Sam. 23.18-19).
  • Joab was faithful to send Uriah home. (2 Sam. 11:6)
  • Joab was faithful to send Uriah to die. (2 Sam. 11:16-21)
  • Joab was faithful in command, but to his own end (He tried to gain favor with Absalom to maintain his power after David was no longer king. See 2 Samuel 14.)

Joab, like Uriah, was faithful in most ways to their human leader. but with David we have a more complete story.

David: Faithful in the End

The depiction of David until this story is of a young man who is faithful to both man and God. He is a mighty warrior and has become a mighty king. But, like all of us, he is not perfect. The story of David and Bathsheba provides a great example of Paul’s warning in 1 Corinthians 10:12, and the promise of verse 13. David did not have those verses to consult, but he did know the mercies of God for those who fail and repent. Thankfully, this same story provides us with a model of repentance as well. We may fall in the middle, but we can still be faithful in the end.
  • David’s lack of fidelity led to a plan of deceit. (2 Sam 11:1-6)
  • David’s lack of integrity led to additional sin. (2 Sam. 11:12-13, 15)
  • David’s dedication to God led him to repent. (2 Sam. 12:13; Psalm 51)

This last point is so crucial for us. Many people start strong, but are they faithful to the end? David started strong and fell hard in the middle, but because he repented he serves as a model for us today. We can learn a great deal from David’s story. It is being faithful at the end that counts. Jesus told a parable about seed that fell on four types of soil (Matthew 13). Three of the seeds began to show some life, but only one truly took root. That is only one type of soil was “faithful” and because of that it bore much fruit. It is not enough to start well, it is finishing well that matters.

CONCLUSION

In recent months, we have seen many high-profile leaders fall for various reasons. The governor of Missouri resigned, as did the President of the SBC Executive Committee, some professors at SBC seminaries, and other leaders have been forced to leave office due to a variety of issues related to sin. The truth is that being in a position of leadership makes any sin magnified and spreads through the public more quickly. And the public, including Christians, are often not as willing to forgive as God is. Of course, only God knows the sincerity of the heart when someone repents. But let us not be deceived into thinking these high-profile leaders are the only ones capable, or culpable, of sin. You and I sin daily, but thankfully, our sin is not broadcast on television or the internet. Likewise, the people in our story today were guilty of sin, but only David’s sin was fully revealed.

The Bible does not reveal any of Uriah’s faults, but Paul wrote that each of us sins, so Uriah had them. The Bible does share a few of Joab’s faults, but it does not have any record of him repenting. We definitely know some of David’s faults, but more importantly, we know that despite his failures, he desired God, who called David “a man after my heart.” David’s life should be an encouragement to us because, although he failed in many ways, he was found to be faithful in the end.

We have seen each of these three individuals as faithful through a certain perspective. While, people may disagree on what makes a person or church faithful, Hebrews 11:6 says we cannot please God without faith. Thus, as I mentioned at the beginning, our success is somewhat tied to our faithfulness to God. That is, if acting on faith pleases God, we must consider being faithful important in God’s definition of success. Each of us, despite our flaws and our sins, can be found faithful in the end when we seek forgiveness from the One in whom we place our trust. We can be certain of this truth because Jesus has always been faithful – from beginning to end.

JOURNEY

The JOURNEY letter for today is: OOBSERVE.

A part of being faithful is to follow the expectations of others. Uriah did this. Joab did this. And, ultimately, David did this. We must do the same, but ultimately our being faithful is to follow the expectations of Jesus. In the Great Commission (Matthew 28.19-20), Jesus said that making disciples includes not only teaching others about what He said, but to “observe” everything He commanded. The promise then, for those who do, is to hear the phrase we should all desire to hear, “Well done good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25.21). As I often comment though, to hear well done, means we had to do.

Being faithful requires us doing something. Last week, that doing included being kind (not just nice) to others. This week, we must consider that our faithfulness begins when we realize how unclean we are. Like David, in his prayer of repentance (Psalm 51), we must confess our sins and ask God to cleanse us and make us new. When we do, we are then equipped to begin observing everything else He has for us to do. And, as we observe, we will find ourselves moving closer to hearing that we have done well and been a faithful servant.

NEXT STEP(S): LIVE

Many people find the demands of Jesus too difficult. And, let’s face it, it is impossible to live up to the standards He demands. But that is why He came to die. He died so that we might live. He doesn’t want us to just be alive physically, He wants us to live our lives with purpose. It is not for us to look at what He demands and just give up; rather, we are to strive towards obedience (see Paul in Philippians 3.12-14), knowing that He has made the path possible for us. This week, choose to live faithfully. Begin by confessing whatever needs to be confessed, and then choose to live according to the standards placed before you (by yourself, your spouse, your boss, by God, whomever). This idea may sound easy, but actually living faithfully in all those roles may make this next week the hardest week of the year.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Seeking God’s Heart – More Than Nice

This new series is based upon 2 Samuel. The general message outlines were written by Pastor Andy as part of a project for LifeWay to coincide with the quarter’s Explore the Bible Sunday School material. Because LifeWay owns the copyright, for full disclosure, a link to the original sermon idea is provided here.
https://s3.amazonaws.com/lifewayblogs/wp-content/uploads/sites/83/2014/06/16122345/sermons_2018_sum_session05.pdf

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When I was a young boy, each time we would be going to someone’s house for dinner, I received what came to be known as the “Andy Lecture.” The “Andy Lecture” was very simple, but my parents were very serious about it. The lecture was this: “Eat whatever is put on your plate.” This was an important statement because I did not (and still do not) like most vegetables. By the time I reached about 10 years of age, my parents quit giving me the Andy Lecture. Instead, they simply said those two words – “Andy Lecture” – and I knew what they meant.

The truth is most children receive some sort of instruction from their parents when going to visit others. I would suppose that one of the main phrases many parents have told their child(ren) is to “be nice.” The phrase is meant to encourage (or warn) a child that a certain type of behavior is expected in a certain setting. The idea of being nice is effectively meant as a way of saying “get along with others.” The definition of the word suggests that we are agreeable or pleasant. As such, the idea of being nice is passive and can be faked for a period of time.

On the other hand, the notion of being kind is a matter of character. Kindness requires being considerate and even benevolent toward others. In other words, to be kind requires action – and that action is for the benefit of others. Therefore, people may be able to fake kindness for a while, but eventually, their true nature will be exposed.

In our passage today, 2 Samuel 9, David extended kindness to Mephibosheth because of his relationship to Jonathan but also because David was kind. Anyone can be nice, at least for a time, but kindness runs deeper; it is a part of our core. As Paul shared in two different letters, kindness is a part of love (1 Corinthians) and is evident as fruit of God’s Spirit within us (Galatians).

David exhibited kindness to Mephibosheth because of his affection for Jonathan. No one asked or demanded that David be nice; rather, David was kind because that was his nature. David’s desire to be kind is evident throughout the passage and shows him to truly be a man after God’s own heart.

David Shows Kindness

For Jonathan’s sake (2 Sam 9:1) – David asks others remembering his covenant to Jonathan.
  1. David asks the question of those who provide him counsel (“they” in v. 2)
  2. Ziba provides information for David to show his kindness (vv.3-4)

For the sake of your father – David talking to Mephibosheth (2 Sam 9.7)
  1. David tells Mephibosheth why he desires to be kind to him. (v. 7)
  2. Mephibosheth was extended the honor of eating at the king’s table (vv. 7, 13)

Culturally, to be a guest at another’s table was a high honor, But Mephibosheth was not just a guest, he was considered as a son (v.11).

Ziba and his family become servants of Mephibosheth (vv. 9-12)
Mephibosheth lived like a prince while the work was done for him. Ziba, his family, and servants were certainly not left for want.

David Shows the Kindness of God (2 Samuel 9:3)

David’s kindness was a reflection of God’s love. (1 Corinthians 13:4)

David did not owe Mephibosheth anything, but honored him with a place at the table nonetheless.
Mephibosheth could do little for David, but David respected him nonetheless by returning His land.

We Can Show Kindness Because of God’s Spirit.

True kindness is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22)

True kindness cannot be faked, because it is a part of who we are.

CONCLUSION:

Being nice and being kind are not the same idea. How nice we are is based upon the perception of others whereas the nature of our kindness is ultimately evaluated by God. My parents gave me the “Andy Lecture” because they wanted me to be nice – it was about the perception of others on me and on them. But kindness is far deeper. Consider Jesus, for instance. Many in Jesus’ day would not likely have considered him nice (calling people vipers – Matthew 23:33; or turning over tables in the temple – Matthew 21:12 – would not be considered nice), but his benevolent nature was evident in everything He did.

David showed extraordinary kindness to the son of a deceased friend for the sake of that friend. David intentionally acted out of the goodness of his heart to share what he had with another. Truly, David’s action in this passage ties everything together we have learned in the last four weeks. David’s love for Jonathan motivated him to seek continued reconciliation with the house of Saul long after Jonathan’s death. His desire to show kindness allows an otherwise unknown and forgotten individual to experience the generosity of a king.

The link to God is, thus, right before us. We can easily see David as one who seeks the heart of God through these actions. Consider that God, likewise, was motivated by love to reconcile us, a group of relatively unknown and unimportant individuals, and showed us extraordinary kindness by the giving of His Son. We have been shown this kindness, in part, so that we might share what we have with others as well. If you and I want to be known as a man or woman after God’s heart, we need to be more than nice to others; we need to show them kindness.

JOURNEY:

The JOURNEY letter for today is: NNURTURE.

To nurture someone or something requires kindness. It requires intention. Thus, it requires action. We have heard it said that someone was nurtured back to health. Or we have seen the differences in development between a young child who was nurtured and another who was neglected. The same is true with our faith. We grow in our faith and understanding if we are intentional to act – to read, to pray, to serve. A faith that is neglected shrivels up and dies. To paraphrase James 2, “Let me show you my faith by what I do.” In other words, let me prove my faith by my service to God and others. Let me prove myself by being kind. When we nurture others we are being kind. We are showing love. We are allowing one part of the Spirit’s fruit to be manifest in our lives. To nurture others is to be kind, which is a part of the true nature of love.

NEXT STEP(S): So how can you be more nurturing this week?

LOVE. If we are going to seek to have a heart like God, we must reflect on the love He has for us. Today, that begins with remembering His sacrifice as we partake of the Lord’s Supper. But as we do, we must remember that His kindness to us required serving in the most extreme manner. His death for us was not about being nice; it was an act of immeasurable kindness. Therefore, for us to show kindness to others, we must be willing to serve as well. Over the past month, we have discussed our need to be motivated by love, to allow that love to move us toward reconciliation, and to be available to God no matter how insignificant we may feel. Now, all of that aligns with the need to express kindness to others so that God might be known through our acts of serving others.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Seeking God’s Heart – Fulfilled Promise

Our lives are full of assumptions. We assume we will wake up tomorrow. We assume we will eat later today. You may even assume this blog post will come to an end at some point. The point is we all make assumptions – many of which are harmless and are the result of routine or habits. Current events or circumstances can influence our assumptions as well as how we think or act. Life experiences will certainly influence our thoughts and lead to all types of assumptions.But whether we hear something, or see something, or are given something, we often make assumptions rather than trying to understand the truth. But do we also make assumptions about God and His actions? Of course. And when we do, we do a great disservice to ourselves and to God. This statement is true of anything, but particularly regarding the promises of God.

The Bible says that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). Likewise, in Malachi 3:6, God says, “For I the Lord do not change...” Therefore, we can trust God’s promises (see also Titus 1:2), but how and when He decides to fulfill His promises are up to Him. As tempting as it may be to impose our thoughts upon God, we must be careful to not assume God will act exactly as we might expect. As the message will reveal today, even when circumstances seem to contradict themselves, God’s promises will not be compromised.

God’s promise to provide an heir for David is one of the great prophesies in Scripture. Although David’s son Solomon was to be a part of the fulfillment (building the house temple for God in 7:13), the grander fulfillment is, obviously, through Jesus. However, most wrongfully assume that Jesus was a descendant of Solomon as well. But per God’s decree, if that happened, God would have to break another of His promises. However, we know Jesus was born, and I am here to tell you today that God kept all of His promises in the process.

A Promise Made (2 Samuel 7:12)

The Bible contains numerous promises from God towards man. But God never makes a promise lightly. Conversely, we often forget promises we make (although we tend not to forget the promises that others make to us). And many times we make promises that we ultimately cannot control. For instance, I remember making a few promises to my children when they were younger only to have to cancel them because I had to work late or go into work on a Saturday.

But what about promises made between us and God? Have you ever made a promise to God? Have you kept it? If not, why not? Oftentimes we make excuses which might make us feel better, but do we truly think our excuses will relieve us from our responsibilities to God? Truthfully, we often forget our promises to God, but God never forgets a promise He has made to us. The problem is that we make assumptions on how and when He will fulfill them. However, He gets to fulfill His promises in His time, not ours, which may mean it will not even be in our lifetimes (consider Hebrews 11). Consider our passage for today.
  1. David is promised an heir to his throne. (2 Sam 7.12)
  2. The promise was not to be seen in David’s lifetime. (2 Sam 7.16)
  3. The promise was not forgotten by Israel (see Matthew 22:41-46)

So God is a promise maker. But everyone makes some sort of promises. So we need to dig deeper to make sure we can trust God to keep the promises He makes.

A Promise Challenged (Jeremiah 22:30)

Have you ever received a promise and then you heard the same promise given to someone else that seems to take away the promise to you? Or instead of receiving it, perhaps you made it. Sometimes these issues can be accidental, but that does not remove the damages. For instance, you might remember a few years ago, we did a musical presentation on a Sunday morning, and then again the next day on Christmas Eve. I told Susan that she should choose the singers for the different songs, but I had already told one person that they could sing a particular song. Well, Susan asked another person without me having told her what I had done. That presented an awkward situation. And I had to apologize, and the situation created a distrust for many months.

But in the situation we will review now, the promise God made to David was threatened because of how the nation of Israel became increasingly corrupt over time (in part because of their wicked kings, with only a few exceptions). First, the kingdom was divided, and later each nation was taken into captivity. It was during that time God made another promise which seemingly undermines His earlier promise to David.
  1. Jehoiachin was king of Judah when Babylon captured Jerusalem (Jeremiah 22)
  2. God said no offspring of Jehoiachin (also Coniah, vv. 24, 28) would be king after him.
  3. Jechoniah (still another name for the same person) is listed in Joseph’s genealogy (Matthew 1:11-12). Jeconiah was a descendant of David through Solomon.

God has now made two promises regarding the future of David’s descendants as king. First, one of David’s descendants would reign on a throne for eternity. Second, God promised that no other kings would ever sit on the throne if they were the descendant of Jehoiachin (Jechoniah).

So, some of your minds are stirring with thoughts. What assumptions are you making about how the story will unfold. We know Jesus is the answer to the eternal king, but isn’t Jesus a descendant of David? And, if Jesus’ father Joseph is a descendant of Jechoniah, then what are we to think?

A Promise Kept

At first glance, we might assume that God has contradicted Himself. That is because we make assumptions and project them upon God. The last king of Judah was a descendent of David, but Jehoichin was not the only descendant of David. God’s promise is that David would have a descendant upon the throne forever, but God did not specify that the King would be from the line of kings which followed David.
  1. A Descendant from the line of David (2 Samuel 7:12, 16)
  2. The Son of Joseph – yes, but also the son of Mary (Luke 3:31 reveals Nathan)
  3. Nathan, the third son born to David in Jerusalem (2 Samuel 5:14; 1 Chronicles 3:5)

Many people know that Solomon was a son of David, but certainly he was not the only one. Many will know the name Absalom. Some many know Amnon. But who is Nathan? (David’s son Nathan is not the same Nathan who served as a prophet at the same time as David.) We don’t know anything about David’s son named Nathan. But God did! And God knew that Nathan would be the line from which Jesus would come. In other words, God would keep His promise to David, and He would also keep His promise (made through Jeremiah) about removing the line of Jehoichin from the throne.

CONCLUSION

The passage today began with an assumption – not ours, but David’s. David made an assumption that he was to build a house for God; however, God’s plan was the opposite – for God to build a house of David (2 Samuel 7:11). But even with this plan being promised, the fulfillment was not as it may have been expected; rather, the fulfillment was through a forgotten son – forgotten by man, but not by God.

Likewise, we often make assumptions about what God might do. And we often forget promises that God has made to us. But we should never consider that God will fail to keep His promises or that we might be forgotten by God. No record is given that Nathan knew He was someone extraordinarily special. But he was, He was in the lineage of Messiah. He may have been the older brother of Solomon, but it is Solomon who received the accolades. Likewise, many people today feel overlooked and unwanted and, therefore, assume God has no purpose for them. But God knew of Nathan’s purpose 900 or so years before anyone else did, and He has a purpose for you as well. We do not get to choose the how or when God may use us, but we can stand ready, and be faithful knowing He will when He knows the time is right.

JOURNEY

The JOURNEY letter for today is: R – REVERE.

We REVERE God because we can trust Him. And we learn to trust Him as we REVERE Him. We can talk of how trustworthy God is, we can sing about His faithfulness, but the question for us is: Do we really trust Him? If not, I would suggest we cannot truly worship Him. How can you trust someone you do not know? How can you worship someone you do not trust? But if we trust Him, we can worship Him greatly. And we learn to REVERE Him more and more...our worship becomes deeper and deeper.

Do you trust God? Not just for your salvation, but for everything that happens every day. I don’t always think that way. There are too many times that I believe that I am in control. I trust God but I am not looking to Him at all times for His guidance. If I am going to truly REVERE Him, then I must trust Him...not just when I feel I need to, but every moment of every day.

NEXT STEP(S):

LIVE: If we are going to seek to have a heart like God, we must not only know Him, but we must begin to live in the light of that knowledge. That knowledge should include being able to trust Him, and that trust in God should be manifest in every area of our lives in every moment of our lives. This week, ask God to reveal a promise He wants you claim personally.

Maybe it is a to remember a promise from the past – one you made God or one that He made you. Maybe you need to begin to live out that promise no matter how long ago it was made.

Or maybe it is to believe a promise made in Scripture that you find hard to accept.

Whatever promise you need to believe this week, begin today. Don’t assume it is too late for you to begin or begin again. If the promise is from God, it will be made true.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Seeking God’s Heart – The Art of Reconciliation

This new series is based upon 2 Samuel. The general message outlines were written by Pastor Andy as part of a project for LifeWay to coincide with the quarter’s Explore the Bible Sunday School material. Because LifeWay owns the copyright, for full disclosure, a link to the original sermon idea is provided here.
https://s3.amazonaws.com/lifewayblogs/wp-content/uploads/sites/83/2014/06/16122345/sermons_2018_sum_session02.pdf

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Relationships are one of the greatest gifts God has given mankind. Many relationships may be quite strong, but as good as any relationship might be, all relationships bring challenges. The challenge is because different people have different desires. When desires are in conflict, people are in conflict. And some conflict can create extreme tensions that can last for weeks, years, and even decades. However, a part of God’s gift of relationships is the gift of reconciliation. Some may consider reconciliation impossible in certain circumstances or with certain people. But God reconciled those who were least worthy (us) to the One who is most worthy (Himself). It took a mighty act to make such reconciliation possible, but if we can be reconciled to God, we can certainly be reconciled with one another.

Today’s story from 2 Samuel shows an attempt at reconciliation, not just of people, but of a divided nation. However, the story also reveals that some will resist any attempt to reconcile. What was true in the time of David remains true today as well.


Reconciliation Requires a First Step (2 Samuel 3.12-19)


Reconciliation is impossible until someone first realizes a need to reconcile and then acts on it. Many people may see a need, but refuse to act because of shame, fear, or any number of negative responses. The process may not always be smooth, and may require give and take, but a genuine and persistent effort can provide the necessary healing. The Bible passage for today shows Abner taking the first step.


Abner sent messengers to David. (v.12)

  1. He was the commander of Saul’s army who was strong among Saul’s house (v. 6).
  2. The king (Ish-bosheth) was afraid of the power Abner had.

Abner asked for a promise from David who agreed with a stipulation.

  1. The stipulation was meant to fulfill a promise Saul made David (v. 14).
  2. Saul’s son, the “opposing” king, actually fulfilled the request (v. 15).

So, Abner took the first step, and David gave a bit of a test to check the sincerity of Abner. David did not ask for what was not rightfully his; however, Abner had to be bold to make the request and rebuke the husband when he followed after them (v. 16).


Reconciliation Requires an Open Mind (2 Samuel 3.20-21)


Initial attempts to reconcile may meet resistance, but once the possibilities are understood, it is often like a dam breaking to let the water flow. Overcoming prejudices and hostility is not easy, but short-term sacrifices can often lead to long-term rewards.


Abner saw an opportunity, which in part was due to a weak king (Ish-bosheth).

  1. Abner knew Israel wanted David as king. (v17)
  2. Abner knew the story that David was to become king. (18)
  3. Abner rallied the support of the people for what he intended to do.

BUT – if David was not open to the idea, then it would have gone nowhere.


David was open to Abner’s request.

  1. A feast was arranged.
  2. Abner promised the allegiance of all of Israel.
  3. David sent Abner away in peace.

If someone approaches you in an attempt to reconcile, how do you respond? Oftentimes, we tend to be too skeptical. Certainly, Abner knew that by helping David, he would find a prominent place in the new kingdom, but that was secondary. Ultimately, David knew he was to be king, and Abner was the broker making it happen. Notice, we get no sense that David lacks trust in Abner. David doesn’t send him away and then gather his counsel together to question the motives of Abner. David sends Abner away in peace. And we find David’s trust apparent throughout the remainder of the chapter because while David trusts Abner, some of David’s leading men do not.


Reconciliation Requires a Firm Resolve (2 Samuel 3.22-30)


Not everyone will welcome the idea of reconciliation. Jealousy, bitterness, skepticism, hatred, etc. will cause some to challenge any attempt of reconciliation. For instance, while David appreciated the efforts of Abner, welcoming the opportunity to restore Israel to one nation, Joab remained hostile towards Abner for having killed his brother Asahel (2 Sam 2:18-23).


Joab heard about David and Abner and sent messengers for Abner to return.

Joab killed Abner as a measure of revenge. (2 Sam 2.18-28)
Abner may not have lived to see the kingdom re-united, but without his efforts, David’s reign could have been very different.

But a key aspect is what David did after Joab killed Abner. David demanded Joab and others to mourn the death of Abner. David once again fasted over someone who had died. But like Saul’s death, Abner’s death led to a reconciliation of Israel.


CONCLUSION:


Many people love the idea of peace. But to truly be at peace requires a measure of reconciliation. Whether peace is being sought between two or more people, families, communities, or even nations, finding common ground can be difficult, but satisfying all demands requires sacrifice.


In today’s message, it was noted that both risk (Abner) and openness (David) were required to heal a divided nation. Ultimately, the reconciliation happened but not before Abner was killed. Although his death was not intended nor expected, the risk Abner took did pave the way for Israel to be a united nation once more.


Jesus, on the other hand, knew His death was required to secure reconciliation for humanity with God. All of the demands of God were met by Jesus’ death and His resurrection reveals the nature of the abundant life for those who are reconciled to God. Certainly, many scoff at Jesus, are skeptical of His life and purpose, and ridicule those who follow Him, but their reactions do not negate the efforts or the effects of God’s offer for us to be reconciled to Him.


JOURNEY:


The JOURNEY letter for today is: U – UNITE.


Remember, this series is about seeking the heart of God. God seeks reconciliation with His premier part of creation – humanity. But He did so because of love. That is why we began this series last week looking at the idea of motivation – and the need for our motivation to be from love. When we love others, we will seek reconciliation with them. And when we love others, we will seek to seek them reconciled to God. If God is a God of love (1 John 4.16), and desires to be reconciled to us (2 Corinthians 5.18-21), then to have a heart which seeks God is to be one that loves others and seeks unity through reconciliation whenever it is needed. Yes, that unity may require taking a risk and having a firm resolve, but if we are open to being reconciled, God will make a way – just as He did for David.


NEXT STEP(S):


LOVE: Last week, our task was to do one thing purely from the perspective of love. The extra challenge was to make that one thing an act of love towards someone you might ordinarily choose not to love. This week, our application is to love someone who has offended you. Without expressing love towards others, reconciliation will not be possible. So, if you want to be a man or woman who is known for seeking God’s heart (as David was, Acts 13.22), then love someone this week as a first step towards seeking reconciliation.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Seeking God’s Heart – What Motivates You?

This new series is based upon 2 Samuel. The general message outlines were written by Pastor Andy as part of a project for LifeWay to coincide with the quarter’s Explore the Bible Sunday School material. Because LifeWay owns the copyright, for full disclosure, a link to the original sermon idea is provided here.
https://s3.amazonaws.com/lifewayblogs/wp-content/uploads/sites/83/2014/06/16122345/sermons_2018_sum_session01.pdf

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Everyone is motivated by something. Perhaps the motivation is to improve a skill, to make more money, to take care of family or friends, to serve in any number of ways, etc. Motivation is a powerful tool and can be both positive and negative depending upon the situation. However, our motivations ultimately expose something far deeper – our character. We may be able to accomplish a great deal while hiding our true motivation. We may even be able to fool others around us for a while. However, our character will be revealed eventually.

Today, we begin a series on 2 Samuel. This sermon series coincides with the Sunday School lessons although we will be behind for the first couple of weeks. This week’s message will look at the motivations of a few different participants in the story that begins this second book of Samuel. What we find is very different motivations revealing very different people because of the very different character within each person or group involved.

Our story begins with the news of Saul’s death. The news is brought by a foreigner and is received by David who mourns, as do the other men who were with him. After David laments, he is crowned as king of Judah and immediately honors the men responsible for finding and burying Saul.

Some People Are Motivated By Reward (2 Sam. 1:1-10)

Receiving a paycheck or even a “Thank you” can be a powerful motivator for some. But do we labor honestly or do we cut corners? Or worse, do we manipulate the situation to appear in our favor? In the end, someone will know and we will be exposed.
  • Compare the true account in 1 Sam. 31:1-6.
  • The messenger stole the king’s crown and armlet, then lies in hopes of a reward
  • Result: The man was killed for displaying a faulty character

Some People Are Motivated By Respect

Certain positions and titles deserve a certain measure of respect. A person who truly respects others will be respectful of those above them (even if we rightfully should have the position (e.g. David), will lead others to be respectful, and will honor those who may have a lesser status, but respect those whom we respect as well.

A. David (2 Sam. 1.11-16)
  • David consistently honored the king (cf. 1 Sam 24, 1 Sam 26)
  • Some of the men with David (vv. 11-12) may not have respected Saul, but they mourned with David because they respected their leader
  • Result: David was honored by God for his moral character
B. Men of Jabesh-gilead (1 Sam. 31:11-13)
  • Risked their lives to care for the dead the bodies of Saul and his sons
  • Fasted in humility because of the loss of their king
  • Result: Men were blessed by David because of their loyalty to Saul

All People Are to be Motivated By Love (Mark 12:30-31)

In the mid-1980s, Tina Turner sang a song entitled, “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” The song was about the physical aspect of a relationship overriding the need for love which is referred to as “a second-hand emotion.” Many people may feel that way about love, but God doesn’t. Love is not an emotion, it is an action. And God commanded us to love.

Whatever our reasons for living, ultimately, we are to be loving. Whether, or not, we receive some type of reward for our labors, or whether we are able to respect others, the greatest of all commands is to love God which requires us to also love others.
  • Our love for, and service to, God will bring Him glory. (Matt. 5:16)
  • Our love for, and service to, others provides a tangible expression of God’s mercy. (Luke 6:35-36)
  • Result: Loving in obedience to Christ shows we are truly followers of Christ. (John 13:34-35; 14:15)

CONCLUSION

Do your actions reveal your true motivations?

Our motivation reveals our character. It has often been said that we should guard our reputation, but reputation is what others think of us, whereas our character is who we really are. Consider that Jesus did not have the best of reputations (He associated with the tax collectors and sinners), but His character was impeccable.

Those who follow Christ must make sure our character and motivation are in sync. When this happens we live and serve through love which honors God and brings Him the glory. Ultimately, when we seek to honor God, we will eventually be honored ourselves – just as David was. On the other hand, when our motivation is selfish, we may hide the truth for a while, but eventually we will be exposed, just as the man was who brought King Saul’s possessions to David.

JOURNEY

The JOURNEY letter for this week is: O – OBSERVE.

That observance starts with obeying the command to love one another, to love others, and ultimately to love God. Everything we do should be motivated by love. Sometimes we can find love motivating us to care for a loved one or because of the bonds of friendship, but if we are honest, being motivated by love is not easy most of the time. Why? Because it is tiring and some people are tiresome. But God could feel the same way about us, and He chose to love us instead.

NEXT STEP(S):

LOVE: So, this week, do at least one thing purely from the perspective of love. Maybe you will do more than one thing, but if you start with one, you should find it easier to repeat the process. If you want a bigger challenge, make that one act of love towards someone that you might ordinarily choose not to love. In doing so, you will truly fulfill the Great Commandment.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

As It Is In Heaven – Conclusion

Every now and then, I think or say something that I take the time to write in a file. It doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, I want to make sure I remember it. I remember one such time was while teaching in Kenya earlier this year. In the midst of teaching a group of pastors about the book of Mark, I made the following statement: “If we are not doing the things God wants us to do, then we do not have the faith God wants us to have.” It is worthy of remembering, and so I wrote it down. Likewise, many times while I am writing a sermon, I have some thought that goes through my mind that I tweet with the hashtag – sermonprep.

History is filled with great lines in the midst of various speeches or messages. Last century, we saw several which were great for a variety of reasons. Consider lines which were meant to inspire (JFK’s “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”) Some lines are great because they serve as a reminder of extreme adversity (Roosevelt’s “Yesterday, December 7, 1941, a date which will live in infamy.”) or provide extreme hope (King’s “I have a dream.”). And some stand out because of the character of the person and a reflection beyond what might be otherwise considered (Gehrig’s “Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”)

As these examples, and many others, show, we often remember a line or two, but we tend to forget most of the speech which means we often lose the message as well. But that is not true of the Sermon on the Mount. This sermon by Jesus some 2000 years ago is quoted over and over every day of the week by people who have chosen to follow Jesus and people who are against Him.

I have no real evidence for the claim I am about to make, but I believe it could very well be true. Apart from one stretch of 21 verses, another stretch of 16 verses, and two other stretches of 12, I think most regular church attenders would recognize any part of this sermon within four to five verses (the sermon is 107 verses long). And many non-Christians know parts of the sermon as well. Let me give you a few examples.

Starting in Matthew 5.3, the first verse of the sermon, we have the Beatitudes. Most Christians would recognize at least one Beatitude such as verse 8, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” Then five verses later, we have “you are the salt of the earth” and the next verse, you are the light of the world. Now in verse 17, we may find some holes in what many people might know until verse 38 which talks about “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,” and then “turn the other cheek,” and “go the extra mile,” and finally in verse 44, “love your enemies.”

Again, we might have a jump of 16 verses here, but then we have the prayer called the Lord’s Prayer. And a few verses later, we hear Jesus talking about laying up “treasures in heaven.” After another jump, we have Jesus command to “seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness” followed two verses later with “Judge not, that you be not judged.” Five more verses pass until we read, “ask...seek...knock” and then another four verses until we find the Golden Rule. Finally, we have another gap of as many as 12 verses before we hear Jesus talking about the wise and foolish builders.

All of those memorable ideas in one speech, which, in part, makes this message so memorable, and even admired. But as R. T. France states succinctly, “The teaching of the Sermon on the Mount is not meant to be admired but to be obeyed.” Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount was not to give us some memorable ideas that sound good, but to challenge and inspire us to live well as citizens of His Kingdom.

As we conclude this sermon series this week, hopefully, we can all agree that this sermon we have reviewed is the greatest sermon ever preached. The audience of Jesus’ day certainly knew something was different about the message they heard. But the question for us is ultimately the same question they faced on that day – how to respond? Did they act upon the message or did their astonishment soon pass because of the cares of the world? What will we do? Either way, Jesus spoke with authority because He had authority. And His authority will be our focus today.

Read Matthew 7.28-29.

Jesus Taught with Authority

The words of Jesus were unlike anything His generation had heard. The comparison in verse 29 is between the authority of the words of Jesus versus that of the scribes. Now, that statement can bring to mind many thoughts about the scribes, but let me bring two of them to light.

First, the scribes did not have the authority Jesus did. Occasionally a scribe, or more likely a rabbi, would reveal a new understanding or teaching, but largely the scribes were to teach what God had already said. That is, they were to take the Old Testament, and using Scripture plus oral and written tradition, they were to teach what God wanted His people to know. In reality, the scribes were much like myself. I have no authority to create new Scripture, only to interpret what God has given in the past. And my mind is not perfect, so I review trusted commentaries to help me gain clarity, and sometimes to help me understand at all. Then, I teach what I believe God has given me to teach to you (or others) based upon my understanding. That is largely the same thing the scribes did.

However, the second idea is that the scribes did not always teach accurately. Consider the last one-half of Matthew 5 where Jesus repeatedly says, “You have heard it said...but I say.” The people had heard what the scribes (and Pharisees) taught, but they were not always right on every issue. Unfortunately, neither am I. I strive to be accurate in examining the text, in interpreting the text, in processing the text, in teaching the text, and in applying the text, but I am imperfect too. But, if Jesus were to stand here and talk to you, I am sure He would say about some things I have taught, “You have heard Andy say, but I say...” Certainly, some teachers do a better job of teaching biblical principles correctly, and I pray that I am one of those teachers. But anyone who thinks they are beyond such correction is wrong – except Jesus. And the people with Him that day recognized the difference. Jesus taught with authority.

Consider the word authority for a moment. The root of the word is author, and Hebrews 12.2 teaches us that Jesus is the “Author and Perfecter of our faith.” Jesus has the authority because He is the author. What He says matters, nothing else. And when the people heard Jesus’ speaking that day, they knew something was different. Jesus spoke with authority, not just as someone who read, tried to understand, and then taught others (again like me). He taught with understanding because He was the original author of the material being taught.

Jesus could say, “but I say to you” because He not only had the authority to say it, but is the authority who judges what is said. Jesus is the living Word of God and the Bible is the written Word of God. Thus, Jesus’ life is a perfect picture of what God has written or what He didn’t have to write because people could see Jesus. In other words, Jesus had the authority to teach it because He lived it.

Jesus Lived with Authority

In a previous sermon series (Follow Me...In the Footsteps of Jesus) based upon the Gospel According to Mark from April 2016 to April 2017, we saw this truth continually. Jesus showed His authority in many ways and areas. For instance, He displayed His authority:
  • over illnesses (see Mark 1.34; 5.34; 10.52, etc.).
  • over demons (see Mark 1.25-26; 3.11-12; 9.25-26, etc.).
  • over Satan (Mark 3.27).
  • over the dead (Mark 5.41-42; see also the story of Lazarus in John 11).
  • over nature (Mark 6.48-50).

Certainly, we could review the other gospels and find more instances, but regardless of where we look, we will see that He had complete authority while He lived, even up to, and including the moment He died (see Matthew 26.53; John 18.36 and 19.11; Luke 23.46).

Jesus Lives with Authority

The last point was not to distract you from the full truth; rather, it was meant as a progression of the truth. Jesus did live with authority, but remember the claim of the angels on Resurrection Morning, “He is not here, he is risen” (Matthew 28.6; also Mark 16.6; Luke 24.6). Jesus did live with authority, but He also lives with authority.

One of the most ironic ideas in the Bible is found in what Peter taught in Acts 3. Verse 15 says that the people “killed the Author of life.” Again, the idea of being an author gives a full measure of authority, but the people tried to usurp that authority from Jesus by killing Him. Yet, the verse continues with the great truth “whom God raised from the dead.” You may try to cast God aside, but He is in control. You may ignore God as you live your life, but He is in control. And as Peter reminds us here, you may even think you have permanently removed God, but He will not lose His authority.

Paul writes about the hope of the Christian because death has been swallowed up in victory and has lost its sting (1 Corinthians 15.54-55). Why? Because Jesus overcame death. Yes, Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5) and Lazarus (John 11) from the dead, but those moments were just a prelude of what was to come.

We must remember that Satan offered Jesus authority if Jesus would bow down and worship him. But Jesus would not because the power Satan offered would not have left Jesus with full authority – He had bowed to another. However, when Jesus completed His mission, the Father gave full authority to Jesus. In Matthew 28.18, Jesus says, “All authority has been given to me.” God, the Father, granted Jesus authority during His life to do what God wanted/needed done. But now, all authority has been given to Jesus and one day He will return in authority to fully claim what is rightfully His (Matt 26.64; Revelation 19.11-16).

So, yes, we can read the words of Jesus’ great sermon and realize what the people thought on that day some 2000 years ago. These words, and this teaching, are special, because they are truly the Word of God. But what we know, and they didn’t, is that Jesus would go on to prove the authority He really had, and that He still has. However, the question remains for us, as it did for them, will we choose to follow the authority of Jesus or do we just find His teaching interesting?

How would having a knowledge of the glory of the Lord affect this teaching?

This question has been asked each week I have preached during this series. And the answer has been contextualized to each message, but the overall principle for correctly answering the question is this: Do you really mean what you pray when you say the words “on earth as it is in heaven.” That phrase within the model prayer is the basis for the title of this sermon series. And it is the title of this concluding message within the series because the glory of God and authority of Jesus is fully recognized in heaven. So when we pray, “as it is in heaven,” we are clearly implying we want God’s glory and Jesus’ authority to be fully realized here as well. But for that to happen, each of us must make it true for ourselves. Each individual must take ownership of that statement and allow Jesus to have full authority over your life. You might think that someone else needs to do more, but when we are seeking first God’s Kingdom and righteousness, we have less time to be concerned about the faults of others – at least, until the log is out of our own eye.

So, do you want God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven? Then what do you need to do to further submit to Jesus’ authority and accomplish your part of doing His will?

CONCLUSION

Jesus taught with authority and the people were amazed. But just because they were amazed does not mean they followed. Today, Jesus still has all authority, but the question is how we respond to that authority? Will we be wise and do what He says, or be a fool hearing Him, but not responding with action. Again, those were the last words of Jesus in His great sermon as we saw last week. He can say them because of the authority He has. But Jesus does not demand our allegiance. He desires our allegiance, but He allows us to make the choice of which master we will follow (Matthew 6.24).

That choice, however, is not like our vote for a president. Someone may vote for a person to be president and if that person doesn’t win, and is disliked, a slogan such as “not my president” begins. But a king is different. And our King is supremely different. Jesus is not a president, or even a king, who is elected by popular vote, or is even concerned with current polling numbers. Jesus is the King because He is also God. Someone may disagree or may even revolt, but Jesus is still King. One day even those who might want to say “not my king” will bow and proclaim Jesus to be the rightful Lord (see Philippians 2.11-12).

But for those who call Him Lord now, we must not let the term be merely a word we use. Rather, by calling Him Lord, we are announcing His authority over our lives. But the question we must consider daily is do we truly embrace His Lord-ship over our lives? That is, do we accept His authority as we live our day to day lives?

And, thus, our JOURNEY letter for today is: J – JESUS

Jesus is the beginning and the end of the journey. We begin our walk towards Him when we respond to His command “Follow Me.” And we finally arrive with Him when our journey in this life is finished. After all, Jesus is the Way, so following Him only makes sense if we want to live our lives faithfully before the Lord – who is the One with he authority.

Based upon today’s message, how can we raise the bar and live on earth as it is in heaven?

NEXT LEVEL STEP(S): LIVE

We live our lives by submitting to Him. We have referred to this as Next-Level Living throughout this series. Next-level living includes raising our bar in:
  • Discipleship – observing all that He commanded so as to be considered wise.
  • Fellowship – uniting as brothers and sisters in Christ so as to prove our love for Him.
  • Worship – revering God in all of His glory and submitting to the authority of His will.
  • Service – nurturing one another to do unto others what should be done.
  • Sharing – engaging others with the message of the Gospel so they can have a great journey as well.

I started this series with a quote from Abraham Lincoln and I will end this message with the same quote. The idea is to make your life count.
“It’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” – Abraham Lincoln

We can make our life count by submitting to Jesus, our true authority, who reminds us to begin with “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.”

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Being Wise or Foolish – More Than a Children’s Song

What is knowledge? Essentially, knowledge is what we know or can know. It is based upon facts or experiences which come from a variety of sources and settings. Several students will graduate this month which is indicative that they have acquired sufficient knowledge to meet the standards set by the school board and administered by the school.

What is wisdom? I have always defined wisdom as applied knowledge. Wisdom does not automatically come with age, but many who are older have learned from the “School of Hard Knocks” which does, indeed, imply wisdom. But we all know of someone, or perhaps many, who have never learned. Thus, they do not become wise, they merely repeat the past, and often draw pity from others.

So, knowledge and wisdom are indeed different. I will share what keeps knowledge from becoming wisdom at the conclusion of this message, but for now what we need to know is that Jesus uses the word foolish to refer to those who only have knowledge of what He says, while those who apply what they have learned from Him are considered wise.

Some first learned the principle of this lesson when you were in the preschool department of Sunday School. It is possible that some learned the song of the wise and foolish builder before learning the ABC’s. But the principle of this final part of Jesus’ sermon is not meant for children, it is meant for adults like you and me. And Jesus makes His point clear – some who hear will choose wisely and others will respond as fools.

This distinction between the wise and foolish person fits well with how Jesus has concluded His overall sermon. I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that Jesus concludes this sermon by contrasting two types of people – those who follow Him and those that do not. The types are described by:
  • the gate they enter. (Matthew 7.13-14).
  • the fruit they bear, by whose will is done (vv. 15-23).
  • the foundation they use. (vv. 24-27).

Today, we are going to touch on this last one, but per the words of Jesus, we have to consider a third group of people as well.

Before we look at the three types of people, we need to consider two general aspects of this text to help us better understand Jesus’ words. First, we generally understand the idea of building on a rock or sand. But let me provide some clarity based upon the Palestinian landscape. Israel is very hilly and rocky which allows for a good foundation. When we were there a couple of years ago, it is evident that most every home or building was built into or on a hill. The primary exceptions were greenhouses and tents of the Bedouins which are nomadic by nature and therefore do not need a permanent foundation. Thus, Jesus audience knew well which terrain was suitable for building and which should be avoided.

Second, we must understand that the storm Jesus describes is identical for each situation. The words He uses are identical – “rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew” in both situations. While the storms in our personal lives may be different, Jesus has painted a consistent picture in each situation to show the storm is not what is important – because it is inevitable – it is the foundation on which we rest that truly matters.

The Wise Hear and Follow Jesus (Matthew 7.24-25)

Jesus uses the word “does.” That is, many have heard, but only the wise “do” what Jesus has commanded. Again, doing what Jesus says does not mean life is easy. The same storms affect those who follow Jesus and those who choose their own path. But only those who follow – or are doers – can be considered wise.

You may recall the story at the end of Mark 3 when Jesus was teaching a group of people and His biological family came wanting to see Him. Jesus responded that “whoever does the will of God” is truly His brother, sister, and mother. That is, those who know AND do God’s will are truly apart of the family of God. They are the true believers.

Frankly, we don’t like to hear this because it means that many people whom we admire, respect, and love may not truly be followers of Jesus. They may know more about Jesus than we do, but Jesus says if they are not acting on that knowledge then they are not wise. Last week Sam preached about the fruit of those who believe versus those who do not believe. The good fruit comes not just from knowing, but from doing. It is through our doing that we prove we have wisdom.

One more note before we leave this first point. We must remember that Jesus’ sermon is ultimately about righteousness. So, it is not just doing, but it is doing because we are righteous. This is a critical point otherwise people could claim that our doing is about earning something like salvation. But that is not what Jesus is saying at all. Jesus has laid out the need for righteous living throughout His sermon and in these last three weeks we see how those who are actively seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness truly live. Three particular verses in the Proverbs give credence to this as well. (See Proverbs 10.25; 12.7; and 14.11.) Thus, this theme of righteous living is evident throughout the Bible, but Jesus spells out specific aspects of it as He preached on the mountain that day.

The Foolish Hear and Ignore Jesus (Matthew 7.26-27)

Contrasted against those who hear and do is those who have heard, but “does not do them” referring to the commands of Jesus. These people believe they are wise and may look like it from afar. They may have the same skills to build their house, use the same building materials, and in every other way mimic a true follower of Jesus, but their choice of a foundation will eventually bring about their ruin. Effectively, they may have deceived others and maybe they have even deceived themselves, but in the end, Jesus is not fooled.

In fact, Jesus brother James later wrote of this very notion. In James 1.22, he wrote that we are to “be doers of the word, and not hearers only” otherwise we deceive ourselves. He then equates the idea of someone looking into a mirror and immediately forgetting what s/he looks like when away from the mirror. But, James continues, the person who acts on what He hears will be blessed by God (which harkens back to the Beatitudes Jesus taught as He began this sermon we have been reviewing!).

As Sam preached last week, many false teachers exist who teach one thing and do another. In essence, a gap exists between what they say and what they do. Now, Jesus is attacking another false type of faith – those who hear and yet do not do. To Jesus, both situations reveal a false faith.

The Rest Need to Hear About Jesus

The third group in Jesus’ concluding thoughts are not mentioned here directly. They are not included among those who are wise, nor are they included with the foolish. This group is ignorant – not in a foolish kind of way, but in the sense that they do not know. Why do I say this? Notice Jesus words in verses 24 and 26. Both sentences begin with the idea of “everyone who hears these words of mine” which implies that some have not heard Jesus’ words. To everyone who has heard, the message is clear – some are wise and others are fools. But what about those who have not heard?

They need to hear about Jesus, about His teachings, and be taught to follow. Remember, Jesus’ final words in Matthew are not just to make disciples who know commands, but to make disciples who observe them. Jesus instructed us to teach others to observe all that He commanded. That is, we are not to instruct others to merely hear and be measured as a fool. We are to help them “do” in order that they will be considered wise. And, for us, if we have heard that we are to make disciples and do not do so, then we are being fools. Some may take exception with my words here, but realize these are not my words, these are from the very lips of Jesus!

If we consider this command to make disciples in the context of the Golden Rule, then if we would want others to teach us about Jesus, we should be teaching others as well. And remember the two principle truths about the Golden Rule I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. First, as we see in today’s passage, it is meant for everyone who hears Jesus words. That is, if we desire to follow Jesus, the Golden Rule applies to us. Second, the Golden Rule requires we do something. The wording Jesus used forces us into action which fits perfectly with today’s message. Everyone who hears Jesus’ words and does them is wise – and that includes “doing” the Golden Rule.

So, the question is, will you hear and be wise by doing or be a fool by going on your way? The question may sound harsh, but let’s put that question in the context of our over-arching question for this series.

How would having a knowledge of the glory of the Lord affect this teaching?

If we know that God is indeed glorious, then it should impact how we live. Of course, it should impact how we hear and respond, which is the key according to this entire sermon Jesus has preached. We can hear Jesus’ words, reflect on Jesus’ words, memorize Jesus’ words, appreciate Jesus’ words, etc. But if we do not do them, we are fools. Jesus is communicating throughout this message, and throughout His ministry, that knowledge is not all that is required, it is about doing. And the difference between knowing and doing is what makes one wise. The difference between knowing and doing is what makes one a follower of Christ. The difference between knowing and doing is the difference between being a member of a church and being a part of the Body of Christ.

Which do you want to be – a fool who simply hears or one who is wise because of what you do?

CONCLUSION
When major storms approach we consider the importance of foundations. We are told to retreat to our basements during a tornado because the foundation is more likely to protect us. But some do not have basements (e.g. those in mobile homes) and thus, without a strong foundation, are in more peril. The same is true for people who face storms physically, emotionally, spiritually, etc. People often fall apart because they have no support system – and that support system must begin with a foundation of faith in Jesus. That foundation is not simply a knowledge of Jesus, but a trust in Him. It is not only knowing who He is, but believing and doing what He says. Again, it is a difference between knowledge and wisdom.

Thinking back to the beginning of this post, if you have read this post you have some knowledge of the Bible. Even if you had never heard anything about the Bible before, you now have some knowledge on the concluding words of Jesus’ sermon with some related verses also included.

But to become wise, we must all now begin to put into practice what we have heard (or read) – not just from this post, but all of Jesus’ words. Doing requires us to make sure all of His preceding words (teaching) are done (all of Matthew 5-7 in perfect context). So, to gain wisdom we must, for instance, give, pray, and fast with the right attitude. We must seek treasures in heaven not on earth. We must seek first God’s Kingdom and righteousness by asking, seeking, and knocking. Etc. In actuality, to be wise, per Jesus, we must begin to do these things.

But many will choose not to do them. Why? Fear. As Gary Haugen shared in a conference I attended last year, “Fear is the difference between what you learn and what you actually do.” We all know far more than we actually do. That is obviously true. But why? Because we fear losing our time, or losing our friends, or making our family mad, or not having enough money, or.... Yes, any of those ideas may be true. However, it seems as if Jesus has addressed these concerns throughout His sermon. And overcoming each of these fears begins with what we seek first... “BUT seek first God’s Kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6.33).

How do you overcome fear? By seeking God. That’s it. And once you do that you will be on the way to doing what He wants you to do which, according to Jesus, makes you wise.

And, thus, our JOURNEY letter for today is: OOBSERVE.

We cannot be wise without obedience. We cannot be obedient without knowing. So, we must know in order to do, but our knowing is more about our becoming more like Him. We do not do out of obligation or a desire to avoid some sort of penalty. We do for Jesus because of love and in response to what He has done for us. Doing is important, but Jesus wants us first to be – that is why we seek first God’s Kingdom and righteousness. As we become more righteous – that is, more like Jesus, then doing becomes more natural. Yes, we must observe...we must do. Per Jesus that is the sign of wisdom, but the first thing to do is to seek God and become righteous.

Based upon today’s message, how can we raise the bar and live on earth as it is in heaven?

NEXT LEVEL STEP(S): LIVE.
Take time to focus on becoming (more) righteous this week. It is the first item of business per Jesus and is done by asking for God to grant it, seeking to find it, and knocking at the narrow gate to enter. Beginning by seeking first His Kingdom and righteousness will put you one step closer to being wise in Jesus’ eyes.