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.