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Sunday, May 30, 2021




Click below for the manuscript of the sermon delivered at Christ Church, Sunday May 30, 2021.

This is the second sermon in the series "Listening To Heaven's Infallible Teacher". In the first sermon "Salt of the Earth" in said that being the salt of the earth is a great compliment but perhaps Jesus’ greatest compliment to a Christian is, “You are the light of the world.” In this statement Jesus commands us to be nothing less than what he himself claimed to be.

John 9:5 NIV While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

Of course, we are not Jesus, but Jesus is saying that we are important people. We think of important people as those who are well known or who have prominent positions. Yet when Jesus gave his Sermon on the Mount, he spoke with people whose names we do not know—ordinary people—and called them “the light of the world.” Jesus was telling them that they were important, that they mattered in God’s kingdom. Today Christ says to you and me, “You are important; you are the light of the world.”


For an audio recording of the sermon click the YouTube Link at the end of the manuscript.  


To see a video of the entire service, click this link https://youtu.be/dSTc2f_FPlE 


Scripture

Ephesians 5:8‭-‬20 NIV For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. This is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.


Sermon

Tomorrow is Memorial Day, which is a uniquely American holiday, observed on the last Monday of May, honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. 

Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971. Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings and participating in parades. Unofficially, it marks the beginning of the summer season.

Memorial Day, as Decoration Day gradually came to be known, originally honored only those lost while fighting in the Civil War. But during World War I the United States found itself embroiled in another major conflict, and the holiday evolved to commemorate American military personnel who died in all wars, including World War II, The Vietnam War, The Korean War and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

For decades, Memorial Day waa observed on May 30, but in 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May in order to create a three-day weekend. The change went into effect in 1971. The same law also declared Memorial Day an official federal holiday.

So today in advance of Memorial Day tomorrow we honor all those of the military who died in war.  Later this year, on Veteran's Day, we will honor all those who have served.


Text

Matthew 5:14‭-‬16 NIV “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.


Introduction

In the first sermon in this "Listening To Heaven’s Infallible Teacher" series, week before last, I said that Jesus' statement in the Sermon on the Mount, that his followers are "the salt of the earth" was a great compliment because when we want to underscore the worth of a person, we might say, “He or she is the salt of the earth!”  This statement about believers, that “You are the salt of the earth”, shows the influence that Christians should have. 

Being the salt of the earth is a great compliment but perhaps Jesus’ greatest compliment to a Christian is, “You are the light of the world.” In this statement Jesus commands us to be nothing less than what he himself claimed to be. 

John 9:5 NIV While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

Of course, we are not Jesus but Jesus is saying that we are important people. We think of important people as those who are well known or who have prominent positions, for example, the apostle Paul, the reformer Martin Luther, George Washington. Martin Luther King Jr. Presidents, members of Congress, or CEOs of multinational corporations. 

Yet when Jesus gave his Sermon on the Mount, he spoke with people whose names we do not know—ordinary people—and called them “the light of the world.” Jesus was telling them that they were important, that they mattered in God’s kingdom. Today Christ says to you and me, “You are important; you are the light of the world.” 

In our text 

we find an exclamation

You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.

We find an illustration

Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.

 And we find an application

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Let's read the text again 

Matthew 5:14‭-‬16 NIV “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.


I said it includes an exclamation, an illustration, and an application.  

I. Let’s look at the exclamation first.

An exclamation is a sharp or sudden utterance, as opposed to something that is passive and lacking in energy.  I don’t think that Jesus was passive when He said “You are the light of the world.”   I’m quite sure that He was emphatic when He exclaimed, “You are the light of the world!”.


What’s astounding is that even though Jesus knows us for what we are He still said that we are “the light of the world.”

The most important testimony and witness of the gospel is not what you say, it is the impression your life makes on other people.  After a few days people may not even remember the details of what you said.  The greatest witness comes in the life you lead rather than the words you say.  

Jesus did not say, “In time you will bring the light,” He didn’t say, “Someday you will become the light.” He said, “You are the light.” It is not by things we say or even the things we do, but it’s by the people we are, that we can be the light of the world.

Okay He said that we are the light of the world, but what did He mean?  

The meaning is made clear in the illustration in verse 15.

 II. An illustration.

Matthew 5:15 NIV Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.

Christ said at least three things about the light the Christian’s life is to radiate.

A. A light is to be seen. The average house in Palestine was very dark with perhaps only one window. A little lamp would be lit so that people might see their way around the darkened house. Once the lamp went out, it was not easy to rekindle it, because there were no matches or lighters as we have today. So the little lamp would be left burning hour after hour. When the family left the house, for safety’s sake, they would take the lamp from its stand and put it under an earthen bushel. When they returned, they would put it back on the stand, since the primary purpose of the lamp was to be seen, not hidden.

So Jesus was saying that Christianity is to be seen. Your Christianity should be perfectly visible. No one should have to ask you, “Are you a Christian?” The very life you live is a light to be seen.


Something I said two weeks ago when I talked about our being the salt of the earth and our influence, was that people will be aware of it. It will not always be welcome, but it will be recognized. You don’t have to announce it, people will see it.  

 B. A light is to be seen; it is also to guide. As an airplane approaches a landing strip, the pilot sees a line of lights that mark the path the plane must take. The Christian’s life must make clear to others the way to Christ. In other words, a Christian must be an example. Our world needs guiding lights. Your life and mine are to be that kind of light.

C. A light is also to warn. When a light is flashing at a railroad crossing, it is a warning that a train is approaching. Sometimes it is a Christian’s duty to warn others. If our warnings are given out of love and not not in condemnation, they will be effective.

Jesus has a disturbing habit of making perfectly clear what he expects us to do in regard to his teachings. 

So here is the se here is the pointed application of this exclamation that you are the light of the world. 

III. An application.

In verse 16 Jesus said,

Matthew 5:16 NIV In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

With this statement Jesus shifts our attention from the character of Christians to our conduct.

A. Verse 16 begins with a plea: “Let your light shine before others” This is an earnest plea that we live our lives so that others will be attracted to Christ. But how are we to shine? 

1. We are to shine naturally. 

Just as it is the nature of a bird to sing, it should be the nature of a Christian to shine before others. Our radiance should have a beautiful spontaneity.

A Christian’s love for others should be an involuntary, spontaneous act of the heart. 

We should not have to say, “I will make myself love my fellow man. They have ignored me, insulted me, and wronged me, but I will love them even if it kills me!” 

If that is the way we love others, we are not showing spontaneous love. 

Remember what Jesus said,

Matthew 5:44‭-‬45 NIV But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

In verse 14 of 1 John 3 John said that this spontaneous love proves that we have been born again as God’s children. 

1 John 3:14 NIV We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death.

Spontaneous love means that we are spiritually alive, born into God’s family with other Christian brothers and sisters. So when we see our brothers and sisters in Christ, we re

reach out to them in love!  It's a supernatural reflex, we don't have to think about it.  

2. We are to shine sacrificially. 

Light is always costly. Whenever we see a light, we can be assured that something is being consumed. Energy is being expended. As a candle burns, it is growing shorter. As a lamp burns, it consumes not only the oil, but also the wick. When the lights are on the meter is running.  When Jesus came as the Light of the World, his shining was at a great cost.  He was arrested and killed.  Yes it was so that our sins could be forgiven but His shining of His light cost Him His life.  

If we are to shine as lights of the world, we must consider ourselves expendable. We must be willing to sacrifice a bit of ourselves each day we live.

3. We are to shine openly. 

If we are to shine before others, we must shine openly. We are never to be ashamed of our relationship with Jesus Christ.

Mark 8:38 NIV If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

Romans 1:16‭-‬17 NIV For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

4. We are to shine right where we are. 

If I am not willing to shine where I am, I will not shine at all. You may be in a conspicuous place, a place of high social position, or it may be in a place no one notices. But wherever you are, you are to shine in that place. You are not there by accident but by divine appointment. 

Philippians 2:3‭-‬4 NIV Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

B. Verse 16 starts with a plea and then gives us a pattern. 

In verse 16 Jesus said, “let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds .” It is quite clear that we are to shine, but the question is how. Jesus said here that we are to shine through good works. 

Ephesians 2:10 NIV For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

The word “good” means not only virtuous, but also beautiful and attractive. 

Philippians 4:8 NIV Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

There must never be a hint of hardness in the goodness of our lives. Ours must be a goodness that attracts people to Christ. 

Galatians 5:22-23 NIV But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

There is a charm in Christian goodness that makes it an appealing thing to all who see it.

Micah 6:8 NIV He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Romans 12:9 NIV Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.

C. There is a plea and pattern in verse 16 but there is also a purpose. 

The purpose that we are to shine is “that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” 

Never is our shining meant to draw attention to ourselves.

You remember in the Old Testament that whenever Moses had a one-on-one conversation with God his face would be shining. 

Exodus 34:29‭, ‬ When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord. 

33‭-‬35 NIVWhen Moses finished speaking to them, he put a veil over his face. But whenever he entered the Lord’s presence to speak with him, he removed the veil until he came out. And when he came out and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, they saw that his face was radiant. Then Moses would put the veil back over his face until he went in to speak with the Lord.

Moses would hide his face from the people 

The point was that the goodness that draws attention to itself is not the kind of goodness or light that Jesus was talking about.  Christians are never to think of what they have done or whether it has reflected favorably on them. They must seek to draw people not to themselves but to God.

Colossians 3:17 NIV And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Conclusion

Our goal should never be to bring recognition to ourselves, but to bring glory to God. There’s a fine line between being a light and putting on a show to get attention. It’s a matter of the heart. 

It’s easy to see the shine of a new diamond ring from across the room. But over time, that shine can dull as dust collects on it.

In the same way, sin can dull our shine as lights for Jesus Christ. Our lives which once sparkled with the joy of Christ can become clouded with a love for things of this world.

1 John 2:15‭-‬17 NIV Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.

Before you can be a light to others, take a look at your own life. Has sin dulled the evidence of Christ in you? Maybe it’s time to stop, take a moment and ask God to reveal any sins you might be ignoring. If there’s a sin you repeatedly struggle with, write it down and pray over it continually. Ask God for His forgiveness and help in changing your heart. 

So how exactly do you shine?

Romans 12:2 NIV Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Here are 4 practical tips to becoming this brilliant light I’ve been talking about. 

Be careful what you say. 

Here’s what the Bible says about the tongue 

James 3:8 NIV but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

That’s pretty serious. And that’s how we should take our speech—seriously. Words are powerful and can be used for good or bad. So

Ephesians 4:29 NIV Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

Be careful what you say, consider your entertainment. 

Where do you go for fun? What shows or movies do you watch? What kind of music do you listen to? Would you go to the same places, watch the same things or listen to the same music if Jesus were sitting next to you? Or would you be embarrassed? It might sound silly, but asking those questions is a good way to keep yourself in check, whether you’re alone or with others.

Here is something else Jesus said in a teaching session with His disciples when he again used light in His teaching.

Luke 8:16‭-‬17 NIV “No one lights a lamp and hides it in a clay jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, they put it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light. For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open. 

Most of you here don’t use social media but some of us including me do, others who may see this sermon on YouTube so another way of becoming this brilliant light that Jesus says we are is to use social media wisely. 

People are watching what you post, whether they interact with your posts or not. Think about the things you’ve posted recently—articles, comments, photos and so on. Could they be seen as prideful? Self-centered? Rude? What’s your motive? To put others down or make them jealous? Hopefully not. 

And finally think of others. 

Consider other people’s needs and help meet them. Encourage instead of criticize. Be patient. Give others the benefit of the doubt. If you hear gossip, distance yourself from it or change the subject. When you encounter a difficult person, remember that they were made and are loved by God. 

Romans 12:3 NIV For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.

Luke 6:31 NIV Do to others as you would have them do to you.

Galatians 6:1‭-‬3 NIV Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves.

The key principle in being the light of the world and the salt of the earthf is found in 

1 Thessalonians 5:15 NIV Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.

We should always strive to do good. If that sounds impossible, you’re right! Only with God’s love and in God’s strength can we live righteous lives and do good deeds that bring glory to God.

God never asks us to be what he will not equip us to be. We can be “the light of the world”!

2 Corinthians 9:8 NIV And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

We live busy lives. But are we busy doing good? Consider how you spend your time and ask yourself if you are being the light of the world that Jesus said you are. 


Sermon Audio 





Sunday, May 23, 2021

The Power and Purpose of Pentecost




Click below for the manuscript of the sermon delivered at Christ Church, Los Angeles, on Pentecost Sunday 2021.

Most Christians could not imagine having a year go by without celebrating the holidays of Christmas and Easter. There is a third Christian holiday, a third observance, a third sacred event that is just as central to our understanding of what it means to be a Christian and what it means to belong to the church.  Most Christians do not celebrate this event, and many have never heard of it or know little or nothing about it. That third event is called Pentecost Sunday. This third great day in the Christian calendar is rooted in the story in Acts 2.   Pentecost celebrates the day when the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles who were gathered in a room in Jerusalem. 

Click the YouTube link for an audio recording of the sermon click the YouTube link at the end of the manuscript.

The watch a recording of the entire service click this link https://youtu.be/zcSNYFDNv_4


Scripture

Acts 2:1‭-‬8 NIV When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.  Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language?

Acts 2:34‭-‬41 NIV For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said, “ ‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand  until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” ’  “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”  When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”  Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”  With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

Introduction

Most Christians could not imagine having a year go by without celebrating the holidays of Christmas and Easter. It was especially difficult in 2020 and even this year Easter for many was celebrated remotely. It is understood by all Christians, no matter how long or short their relationship with God and the church has been, that no Christian calendar is complete without the observance of these two events, Christmas, and Easter. 

Christmas is the event that celebrates the birth of Jesus and the beginning of His ministry of redemption on earth. Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus and God’s ultimate victory over sin and death. If I were to announce that our church was not going to observe Christmas and/or Easter anymore, you rightfully could say we would be turning our backs on events that are central to our understanding of what it means to be Christians and what it means to belong to the church.

Something would be missing from our lives and experiences as Christians if we didn’t celebrate, in some way, Christmas and Easter as a church.  

Can you imagine going an entire year without hearing about there being no room in the inn when Jesus was born or not hearing, “He is risen, indeed!” as the pronouncement of His resurrection? 

Imagine a year with no poinsettias and no Easter lilies. Imagine a year with no songs like “Silent Night” or “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today.” I would submit that it is impossible to understand the meaning of the Christian faith without observing and understanding Christmas and Easter.

There is a third Christian holiday, a third observance, a third sacred event that is just as central to our understanding of what it means to be a Christian and what it means to belong to the church.  Most Christians do not celebrate this event, and many have never heard of it or know little or nothing about it.

That third event is called Pentecost Sunday. This third great day in the Christian calendar is rooted in the story in Acts 2, part of which we read today.  Pentecost celebrates the day when the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles who were gathered in a room in Jerusalem. 

Acts 2:1 NIV When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.

Before Pentecost, those men were hiding from the public for fear that what had happened to Jesus might also happen to them. 

John 20:19‭-‬20 NIV On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”  After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

After Pentecost, those frightened men had become suddenly and miraculously equipped and empowered to carry on the ministry Jesus had begun—in the very city of Jerusalem where Jesus had recently been put to death.

Acts 2:42‭-‬47 NIV They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Pentecost began as and remains one of the major holidays on the Jewish calendar that occurs 50 days after Passover. The word Pentecost means “50th or 50th day.” 

For Jews, Pentecost was the time when they celebrated the first harvest of the agricultural year. It was a time when they gave thanks to God for what the land had produced and for what their labor had yielded.

Leviticus 23:15‭-‬22 NIV “ ‘From the day after the Sabbath, the day you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, count off seven full weeks. Count off fifty days up to the day after the seventh Sabbath, and then present an offering of new grain to the Lord . From wherever you live, bring two loaves made of two-tenths of an ephah of the finest flour, baked with yeast, as a wave offering of firstfruits to the Lord . Present with this bread seven male lambs, each a year old and without defect, one young bull and two rams. They will be a burnt offering to the Lord , together with their grain offerings and drink offerings—a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the Lord . Then sacrifice one male goat for a sin offering and two lambs, each a year old, for a fellowship offering. The priest is to wave the two lambs before the Lord as a wave offering, together with the bread of the firstfruits. They are a sacred offering to the Lord for the priest. On that same day you are to proclaim a sacred assembly and do no regular work. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live.  “ ‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you. I am the Lord your God.’ ”

For Christians, Pentecost marks the birthday of the Christian church, the day when Peter preached and in response to that sermon there was also a harvest of 3,000 souls converted.

His sermon starts at Acts 2 verse 14 

Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 

And ends with verses 40 and 41

With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

This is the same Peter now, who 53 days earlier had said about Jesus; “I never knew Him.” This is the same Peter who had nothing to say about Jesus when someone asked him directly if he was one of the followers of Jesus. 

The account of Peter’s denial of Jesus is recorded in Luke 22:52-62 and Matthew 26:69-75.

This same Peter, on the Day of Pentecost, stood before a crowd of the same people he once feared, and he boldly declared the gospel of Jesus Christ.

This same Peter stood before many of the same people who had shouted, “Crucify Him,” on the day Jesus stood trial before Pontius Pilate in the city of Jerusalem. Now this same Peter declared in no uncertain terms the Man they had ordered to be crucified was, in fact, the Son of God. 

Acts 2:36 NIV “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”

How did Peter go from being frightened to being fearless? How did Peter go from being cowardly to being courageous? How did Peter go from denying Jesus to defending Jesus before the very same people in the very same place?




Peter did not simply change his mind; Peter was completely changed. Something happened to Peter and to the others in that room, as well, to set them on fire for Jesus Christ to such a degree that it was soon said about them, “These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here,

This was said about Paul and Silas who, were later baptized and filled by that same Holy Spirit that filled that room on Pentecost Sunday.  

Acts 17:1‭, ‬5‭-‬7 NIV When Paul and his companions had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. But other Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason’s house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd.  But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some other believers before the city officials, shouting: “These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here, and Jason has welcomed them into his house. They are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus.”

What happened to Peter, and those in that room   and what needs to happen to everyone who calls him or herself a disciple of Jesus Christ is what Pentecost is all about.

Pentecost marks the outpouring of the Holy Spirit by which human beings are equipped to do the work of God. We are not by our own natural resources going to save the world, establish God’s kingdom or usher in what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. often referred to as “the beloved community.” 

If any of these things happen, it will be because we have acknowledged, embraced and moved under the power and conviction of Pentecost and the work of the Holy Spirit.

Consider these three events, Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost this way: If Christmas marks the birth of Jesus, Pentecost marks the birth of the church; if Easter marks the day when Jesus was raised from the dead, Pentecost marks the day when that message about Jesus began to make its way to people and places all over the world. 

Of course, the church and the world do not treat Pentecost as they do Christmas and Easter. For instance, there are no Pentecost sales, no Pentecost tree, no Pentecost pageant; and I have never heard of the Pentecost Bunny.

The fact that we have failed to understand or observe this day on the calendar does not change the basic truth this day holds for every believer. 

Unless you understand what happened at Pentecost you will never completely understand what it means to be and live as a Christian. 

Before He assessed to heaven Jesus tells the apostles to remain in the city of Jerusalem until the power of the Holy Spirit came upon them. 

Acts 1:6‭-‬8 NIV Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”  He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

He was not sending them out to evangelize on the basis of their life experiences or their understanding of religious laws and teachings. He was not suggesting that spending three years in His presence had resulted in them being equipped for the work that lay ahead. Instead, He told them to wait for the power, wait for the anointing, wait for the Holy Spirit to come upon them. Once they had that power, they would be ready to go. Until that happened, they needed to wait!

Pentecost Sunday is the day we remember when and how that anointing took place. While they all were huddled in a room in Jerusalem behind locked doors and shuttered windows, they heard the sound of a rushing wind. What appeared to be tongues of fire seemed to settle over the head of each person. They began to speak in other languages, but what they were saying was understood clearly in the native language of each person gathered in Jerusalem that day. 

Acts 2:1‭-‬4 NIV When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

You see, the power of Pentecost was not the unknown tongues in which the apostles were speaking. The miracle was that people from every known region of the world were able to understand what was being said in his or her language.

Immediately after the miracle of understanding, in their own languages, something else of equal importance took place: The work of the church in the world as an agent of reconciliation and evangelism began that Pentecost Sunday. 

Think about Easter and Christmas as events that involve Jesus as the primary actor. On Christmas, Jesus was born into the world and laid in a manger. There were no disciples present for that event. What do you and I do on Christmas that is central to the story? Nothing! 

On Easter, Jesus was raised from the dead with all power in His hands. Once again, there were no disciples involved in bringing that event to pass. There is nothing for us to do on Easter except celebrate and give thanks for the work Christ has done on our behalf.

On Pentecost, though, you and I are called away from our roles as spectators into the role of central characters in God’s work of redemption and salvation. As a result of Pentecost, we don't just watch what somebody else is doing for God, but we are equipped by the power of the Holy Spirit so we can become actively involved in the work of salvation and redemption. 

That is what Pentecost is all about; it is the day Jesus officially transfers to His disciples the responsibility of spreading the message of salvation.

Pentecost is the day when God begins the process of converting the world to faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Most important of all, Pentecost is the day when God decided the way the world would be evangelized was not by the singular ministry of His Son, Jesus Christ, but by the anointed and empowered efforts of every single person who calls him or herself a Christian. The time for following Jesus as a disciple or learner is over, and the time to carry His message forth has come 

Think about any event in your life when you began by watching what somebody else was doing, then suddenly the responsibility to work was passed to you. It is one thing to watch while somebody else does all the work. It is another matter to do the job yourself. However, that is what God called those disciples to do on the day of Pentecost and calls us to do today.

Here are a few brief observations about Pentecost based on the biblical texts we read today. 

We need to lift up and celebrate the role and work of the Holy Spirit. The purpose of Pentecost is to remind every Christian that even though Christ died for our sins and that by baptism we accept the forgiveness of our sins, there is something else each one of us needs to do.

We need to receive the Holy Spirit so we can do the work of discipleship that awaits each one of us. You cannot witness correctly or effectively unless you have received and depend on the Holy Spirit. You cannot pray, sing, serve or live correctly as a Christian unless and until you have been empowered and enlightened by the Holy Spirit, which first fell on the Lord’s apostles in Jerusalem on Pentecost!

Do you remember when God made Adam from the dust of the earth in Genesis 2:7?

Genesis 2:7 NIV Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

Nothing happened with that body that God had fashioned from the dust until God breathed His Spirit into the nostrils of Adam, who then became a living soul.

Do you remember the dry bones in the valley in Ezekiel 37? 

Ezekiel 37:7‭-‬10 NIV So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.  Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’ ” So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.

Although Ezekiel spoke to the bones and they came together to form a body, the body could not and did not move until the Spirit of God blew over those bones. 

The same thing is true with the church and with every Christian; no matter what our spiritual gifts might be, they never will function to their full capacity until we allow the Holy Spirit to blow over us, fill us and equip us for God’s service.

There is a hymn that says:

“Breathe on me, breath of God,

“Fill me with life anew,

“That I may live as You did live,

“And do what You would do.”

There is another hymn that is more familiar that says:

“Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me,

“Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.

“Melt me, mold me, fill me, and use me.

“Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.”

We cannot do our work, employ our gifts or exercise our ministry areas until God has filled us and transformed us by the power of the Holy Spirit. Once the Holy Spirit has come, we can have the same boldness, conviction and the same results Peter had on the Day of Pentecost when 3,000 souls were added to the church at the end of his sermon. We need the power of Pentecost!

Look at the crowd that was gathered on Pentecost, and then look at almost every church in this country. When we do that, we will see how far short we are falling from what I believe to be God’s will for the church. If you held a map of the world as it was known in the first century A.D. and then listened to the roll call of nations represented in Jerusalem on Pentecost, you would see that every known continent, race and ethnic group was gathered there that day.

Acts 2:9‭-‬11 NIV Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,  Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!”

Remember that Jews had, by this time, spread into every region of the world. On Pentecost, as on Passover and the other major Jewish holidays, some Jews returned to Jerusalem to celebrate by making a sacrifice in the Temple of Solomon. That is why there were people there from Africa, Asia and Europe. That is why Egyptians, Greeks, Romans and Persians all were present in one place at one time.

God was doing two wonderful things at once: He was converting people who could take the message back to their respective countries and establish the gospel throughout the world; and perhaps more importantly for today, He was establishing a church that consisted of and welcomed people from every race and region of the world.

I am sure God hates the fact that in this city and across this country most Christians gather for worship in all-white, all-black, all-Hispanic or all-Asian congregations. That is not the case here at Christ Church, but we are the exception and not the rule, we're unusual but we shouldn’t be.  I am sure God hates the fact that the racism and segregation that still grips our society is strongest in the Christian church. How can the church be the light that draws the world to salvation in the name of Jesus when the world sees inside our walls the same ugly divisions as in the rest of society?

There was an article in Christianity Today magazine that asserted the work of the church will not be complete until the church itself reflects the same multi-cultural and multi-ethnic diversity God has placed within the world. Put another way, according to 1 John 4:20, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ but hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.”

The diversity God created is not limited to race or ethnic background. Diversity also is reflected in issues of social class, economic levels, educational and political points of view.

Pentecost is the day when gender walls seem to come down. Peter said Pentecost is the fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel who said,

 “God will pour out His Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters will prophesy…Even upon the menservants and maidservants in those days will I pour out My Spirit” (Joel 2:28). 

Pentecost is the day when God tears down all the walls of division in the world and the church.

We need to move beyond the idea that God cannot use men and women in the ministry of the gospel. Paul would go on to say, “In Christ there is neither male nor female, neither slave nor free, neither Jew nor Gentile” (Galatians 3:28). 

Finally, I want you to notice that when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, there are some people who might laugh at you or look funny at you because of what you might start to do under the influence of that power and anointing. When the Holy Spirit fell on the apostles in Acts 2 and they began to speak in foreign languages, some people accused them of being drunk. It seemed to the outside world as if they were babbling uncontrollably.

There are some people and some places where worship has become so structured, ordered and intellectualized that any room for the free movement of the Holy Spirit has been removed. If you dare raise your voice—or your hand—you are judged as emotional.

However sometimes when you are operating under the power and anointing of the Holy Spirit you shout. Sometimes that power can make you clap your hands. 

I invite you to celebrate the third great holiday of the Christian faith which is Pentecost. I invite you to open your hearts to receive the Holy Spirit. You may not always look, or sound dignified, but that’s all right, because “I’m going to shout when the Spirit says shout; I’m going to move when the Spirit says move; and I’m going to dance when the Spirit says dance.” I end by repeating these words: “Every time I feel the Spirit moving in my heart, I will pray!”

Celebrate Christmas, celebrate Easter, celebrate Pentecost, celebrate the Father, celebrate the Son, celebrate the Holy Spirit.

Prayer

Father God we celebrate today the indwelling of Your Holy Spirit, which You sent upon the believers on the day of Pentecost, and which is our blessing today. Lord, we thank You for the transforming work of Your Holy Spirit in our lives and through our lives toward others. We thank You that You have given us boldness to proclaim the Gospel. Remind us to use Your power to do the work You have given us. Amen.

Sermon Audio





Sunday, May 16, 2021

The Salt Of The Earth




Click below for the manuscript of the sermon delivered at Christ Church, Los Angeles, May 16, 2021.
Today we are starting a sermon series based based on things in Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, "Listening To Heaven's Infallible Teacher". This first sermon in the series is based on Jesus' statement that His disciples are the "salt of the earth".
The presence of salt cannot be ignored. It is a positive influence. If it is present, we cannot fail to recognize its presence. If it is absent, we miss it.

Where the salt of the earth is in the form of Christian influence, people will be aware of it. It will not always be welcome, but it will be recognized. But unless Christians are pure, they cannot demonstrate the power of Christian influence. If you show that you are the salt that Jesus says you are you don’t have to announce it people will see it.

Click the YouTube link for an audio recording of the sermon click the YouTube link at the end of the manuscript.

The watch a recording of the entire service click this link https://youtu.be/sL31WDJ7Dxo

Scripture 

Matthew 5:13‭-‬20 NIV “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.   “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.   “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.  For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.  Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.  For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Text: 

Matthew 5:13 NIV “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

Introduction


Without question the Sermon on the Mount as recorded in Matthew 5–7 has been more widely discussed than any other writing of equal length. Many Bible scholars believe that the best-known fact about Jesus is that he gave the Sermon on the Mount.  As we go through this series of sermons “Listening To Heaven’s Infallible Teacher”, I encourage you to read the entire Sermon on the Mount Matthew 5-7.  

We started off the last year 2020 with a series on the Beatitudes which is one of the main parts of the Sermon we are going to talk about for the next several weeks.  In that series we said that the beatitudes which mean extreme blessing was the way to happiness. 

Matthew 5:3‭-‬12 says 

  1. Blessed are the poor in spirit

  2. Blessed are those who mourn

  3. Blessed are the meek

  4. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,  Blessed are the merciful

  5. Blessed are the pure in heart

  6. Blessed are the peacemakers

  7. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness

  8. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.  

Little did we know that we were really going to need those extreme blessings in 2020 with COVID and the racial and civil unrest plus all the other tragedies and difficulties of last year, and it looks like this year, while maybe not as bad, is not going to be that great either.   Well I digress.  

If you want to review those sermons, from last year, the manuscripts and the audio recordings are on my blog at faiththeevidence.com. 

After the Beatitudes Jesus offers a series of teachings that, if incorporated in our lives, would revolutionize our very existence. In Matthew 5:13, our text for today, Jesus made this very pointed statement, “You are the salt of the earth” (NIV). 

In this statement Jesus has given to us an expression that has become one of the finest compliments that can be paid to any individual. When we want to underscore the worth of a person, we might say, “He or she is the salt of the earth!” 

The statement about believers, that “You are the salt of the earth”, shows the influence that Christians should have. 

Salt was the purest of all things because it came from the purest of all elements, the sun and the sea. So, if Christians are to be the salt of the earth, we must be an example of purity. Christians who want to be spiritually influential must hold high standards

The presence of salt cannot be ignored. It is a positive influence. If it is present, we cannot fail to recognize its presence. If it is absent, we miss it. 

Where the salt of the earth is in the form of Christian influence, people will be aware of it. It will not always be welcome, but it will be recognized. But unless Christians are pure, they cannot demonstrate the power of Christian influence.  If you show that you are the salt that Jesus says you are you don’t have to announce it people will see it.

 II. The sphere of influence.

Christ said, “You are the salt of the earth.” Since we are the salt of the earth, where are we to unleash our preserving and purifying powers? In the earth of course 

“You are the salt of the earth….Matthew 5:13 NIV

So we are to apply our influence in the here and now, in the communities where we live, we are to apply our influence in the face of the needs that confront us everyday. We are to be the salt of the earth in the city in which we live. In our neighborhoods.  It is our business to see that our community is a wholesome environment in which young people will have the best possible chance to grow and develop.   We are to be the salt of the earth in Los Angeles, in California, in the United States, in the world.  Jesus said we are the “Salt of the earth”.

Salt does its most effective work when it is in direct contact with the substance on which it is to work. For example salt is most effective when it is placed on food.  Now many of us, because of health reasons, have to be careful about how much salt is on our food but nevertheless is most effective when put on food.  The point is that we are not to withdraw ourselves from the world, we are to have a positive impact on it, but while having a positive impact we are, as the apostle James said,  to stay “unpolluted by the world”.

James 1:27 NIV Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

When Jesus prayed for His disciples as recorded in  John 17 He prayed;

John 17:13‭-‬16 NIV “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.  I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.  My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.  They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.  

Salt has been a preservative throughout the ages. In ancient times salt was used whenever something needed to be preserved. 

Without the presence of those reflecting the character of Jesus Christ, and being the salt of the earth civilization will self-destruct. 

2 Thessalonians 2:7‭-‬8 NIV For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming.

Paul is here talking about the spirit of antichrist which if not kept in check would destroy everything but the one holding it back is the Holy Spirit which resides in all Christians and is revealed through the fruit of the spirit, which reflect the character of Christ.  

Mankind does not become increasingly pure but tends to become increasingly impure. That's why the presence of Christians in society is an absolute necessity if that society is to be saved from disintegration. 

Here is what we should be showing as “salt of the earth” 

Galatians 5:22‭-‬23 NIV But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.


As Christians we are called on to be the preservative in our society. We must be those who by our presence defeat corruption and make it easier for others to do good.

Salt has a flavoring influence. Without salt, food has little if any flavor. So Christ is saying that the Christian is to life what salt is to food. We are to lend flavor to life. The tragedy is that so many people have assumed that to be Christian is to have no flavor in life. They have unfortunately and wrongly concluded that 

Oliver Wendell Holmes is quoted as saying that he might have entered the ministry if certain preachers he had known had not acted so much like undertakers. There is an entry into Robert Louis Stevenson’s diary that says, “I have been to church today and I’m not depressed!”

People need to discover the joy in being a  Christian. 

Nehemiah 8:10 NIV Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

Happiness depends on circumstances, joy depends on God.  If you have accepted Jesus as your Lord  and Savior you have joy because of your faith in Him and His sacrifice for us.

There was a Jesuit biologist and philosopher who once wrote, “Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God.”

In a world that is so depressed and seems to have lost the joy of life, we as Christians are charged with the joyous responsibility of being the salt of the earth, adding flavor to life.

III. The sacrifice of influence.

When Jesus referred to his disciples as salt, that was a great compliment. They had not realized before this how important they were. However, Christ did not call them salt in order to send them on an ego trip. So He also gave them the solemn warning—they could lose their saltiness. 

Matthew 5:13 NIV “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

That is, they could sacrifice their influence.

Salt, pure sodium chloride as we know it, does not lose its saltiness. But the Palestinians got their salt from the Dead Sea, and that salt was not pure. It was mixed with other minerals that often affected its flavor. In time it could become tasteless. When this happened, it was good for nothing but “to be thrown out and trampled.” 

So the disciples were given a solemn warning. They were to preserve their society or be pulverized by it. None of us are immune to losing our own savor. If we are not fulfilling their purpose as the salt of the earth, we are on our way to becoming useless.

The final word of caution that Jesus gave concerning the end of salt that has lost its saltiness—that it would be thrown out and trampled—indicates that neither God nor people have any use for it. 

We may ask, why is the church not growing today? Why are young people leaving the church?  

The religious landscape of the United States continues to change at a rapid clip. In Pew Research Center telephone surveys conducted in 2018 and 2019, I didn't fine any more recent information, it may be worse than these results. The survey found that 65% of American adults describe themselves as Christians when asked about their religion but that’s down 12 percentage points over the past decade. Meanwhile, the religiously unaffiliated share of the population, consisting of people who describe their religious identity as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular,” now stands at 26%, up from 17% in 2009.

Both Protestantism and Catholicism are experiencing losses of population share. Currently, 43% of U.S. adults identify with Protestantism, down from 51% in 2009. And one-in-five adults (20%) are Catholic, down from 23% in 2009. Meanwhile, all subsets of the religiously unaffiliated population – a group also known as religious “nones” – have seen their numbers swell. Self-described atheists now account for 4% of U.S. adults, up modestly but significantly from 2% in 2009; agnostics make up 5% of U.S. adults, up from 3% a decade ago; and 17% of Americans now describe their religion as “nothing in particular,” up from 12% in 2009. Members of non-Christian religions also have grown modestly as a share of the adult population.

Why is this happening?   Maybe the salt lost its savor.

Conclusion

Is it possible to restore lost savor, to regain lost influence? Yes, it is! Christians who have lost their savor can win it back by going again to the source from which they received it. God placed no obstacles in the way of someone returning to the fountain of all power and purity. When the influence has been sacrificed, there is only one thing to do. We must repent and return to our first love. 

Let me read what Jesus dictated to the apostle John, to write to the church in Ephesus.

Revelation 2:1‭-‬7 NIV “To the angel   of the church in Ephesus write:  These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands.  I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false.  You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.   Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.  Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.  But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.   Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

When we return to our first love we will once more be “the salt of the earth.”

Lord, you have warned us to prepare for your return, but you have also given us responsibilities in the present. Teach us what it means to live according to your purposes here and now so that we are the salt of the earth that you said that we are to be.

In Jesus name Amen

Sermon Audio






 

 



Sunday, May 9, 2021

A Mother With Extreme Faith




This is the manuscript of Mother's Day sermon at Christ Church on May 9, 2021.

Today on Mother’s Day, we are going to look at a woman of faith. The single mother and widow of Zarephath did not start out having extreme faith. In fact she had little faith but she acted on it by letting go of everything that she had and God used that little faith as an example to us that He can take a little faith use it and grow it to extreme faith but we must first let go of everything and give it to Him.

1 Kings 17:12 NIV “As surely as the Lord your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.”

1 Kings 17:15‭-‬16 NIV She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah.

Click the YouTube link for an audio recording of the sermon.


Scripture 

1 Kings 17:8‭-‬16 NIV Then the word of the Lord came to him: “Go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there. I have directed a widow there to supply you with food.” So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, “Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?” As she was going to get it, he called, “And bring me, please, a piece of bread.”  “As surely as the Lord your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.”  Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. For this is what the Lord , the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.’ ”  She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah.


Introduction


The clearest modern precedent for Mother’s Day is the early Christian festival known as “Mothering Sunday.” This celebration fell on the fourth Sunday in Lent and was originally seen as a time when the faithful would return to their “mother church”—the main church in the vicinity of their home—for a special service. Over time the Mothering Sunday tradition shifted into a more traditional holiday, and children would present their mothers with flowers and other tokens of appreciation.

The roots of the modern American Mother’s Day date back to the 19th century, before the Civil War, where Ann Reeves Jarvis of West Virginia helped start “Mothers’ Day Work Clubs” to teach local women how to properly care for their children. These clubs later became a unifying force in a region of the country still divided over the Civil War. In 1868 Jarvis organized “Mothers’ Friendship Day,” at which mothers gathered with former Union and Confederate soldiers to promote reconciliation.

Another precursor to Mother’s Day came from the abolitionist Julia Ward Howe. In 1870 Howe wrote the “Mother’s Day Proclamation,” a call to action that asked mothers to unite in promoting world peace. In 1873 Howe campaigned for a “Mother’s Peace Day” to be celebrated every June 2. 

The official Mother’s Day holiday arose in the 1900s as a result of the efforts of Anna Jarvis, daughter of Ann Reeves Jarvis.

Following her mother’s 1905 death, Anna Jarvis conceived of Mother’s Day as a way of honoring the sacrifices mothers made for their children. After gaining financial backing from a Philadelphia department store owner named John Wanamaker, in May 1908, she organized the first official Mother’s Day celebration at a Methodist church in Grafton, West Virginia. That same day also saw thousands of people attend a Mother’s Day event at one of Wanamaker’s retail stores in Philadelphia.

Arguing that American holidays were biased toward male achievements, she started a massive letter writing campaign to newspapers and prominent politicians urging the adoption of a special day honoring motherhood. By 1912 many states, towns and churches had adopted Mother’s Day as an annual holiday, and Jarvis had established the Mother’s Day International Association to help promote her cause. Her persistence paid off in 1914 when President Woodrow Wilson signed a measure officially establishing the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.  In the United States, Mother’s Day continues to be celebrated, and it has become one of our biggest holidays. 



Today on Mother’s Day, we are going to look at a woman of faith. This woman in the  Scripture that Jean read in 1 Kings doesn’t start out as a woman of faith, but she sure ends up a woman of faith.  Whoever you are, and whatever your faith is like – to end up as a person of great faith, you start out as a person with  less than great faith. But God can and will still use you even if you don’t start with great faith, we see this in our passage today.

In our example today the nation of Israel, is in the middle of a great drought, predicted by the prophet Elijah himself. 

1 Kings 17:1‭-‬3 NIV Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord , the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.”  Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah: “Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan.

Elijah has been in isolation in the Kerith Ravine, which is a small tributary to the Jordan river, and in vRiver, of 1 Kings 17 the word of the Lord comes to him and directs him to go to Zarephath which was in what is today Lebanon.

Now the prophet Elijah must know life is going to get difficult. Kerith, where he was staying, means separated, and the name depicts Elijah's situation – he was alone, and without human contact for an extended period of time. God then sends him to Zarephath, which means, fiery trial. So God calls him out of the frying pan and into the fire. You can imagine Elijah walking to Zarephath thinking, “Holy Smoke, what in the world has God planned for me next?”.

Notice, God doesn’t give him much to go on.  All He says is “Go at once to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there. I have commanded a widow in that place to supply you with food.” 

So, does the woman have a name? What will she be wearing? What is her address? Does she know I’m coming? 

Does God do this to you too? Life is moving along, you’re doing your thing and bam, out of the blue something hits you and you ask, “God, what is going on?” and you get no details. 

What we do know about Elijah is that he is bold, confident, strong, and faithful. Elijah is a man who will do whatever God asks of him, so why the lack of details? 

Sometimes God is silent because his awesome power is revealed….slowly. Sometimes the time spent waiting will intensify the impact of the work of God on our lives. Sometimes the wait will make us more than ready to receive the Word of the Lord.

So Elijah goes if faith alone with minimal details to his Zarephath, his fiery trial.

Now at the gate he finds our woman of faith. What I love is that when Elijah arrives at the gate – there’s the widow, front and center. He doesn’t even have to look or ask around, she’s right there.  

We want the details of our circumstances from God upfront don’t we? But God supplies the details as we walk in faith – as we step out and arrive where God has directed us, and there are the details, standing right in front of us.

So here is this woman gathering sticks and Elijah calls to her. 

1 Kings 17:10 NIV So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, “Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?”

What he does is play a trick on her, so to speak. Elijah calls her and asks for a drink and as she is going to get the water he adds, “And bring me, please, a piece of bread.” 

In the ancient Middle East hospitality was a very big deal. If someone asks for a drink of water, it is rude, even an unspeakable act to refuse the person a drink. It would be shameful for this woman to refuse him a drink of water. She may be broke, she may be at the end of her rope, but she still has her dignity and she can perform this act of hospitality, so she heads for the water jar – but to give away her bread, that is another thing altogether. Yet she is trapped by Elijah adding on a second request. Understand this second request is asking for her life commitment, for the request is asking for all she has.

 1 Kings 17:12 NIV “As surely as the Lord your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.”

So who was this woman? Her name is never even mentioned. What we do know is that she is a single mother who is trying to make it, and it looks like she isn’t going to make it. She is trying desperately to take care of her son, but it is clear that she cannot provide for him. Usually a widow would have family to help take care of her. But this woman apparently doesn’t have anyone. If she dies, no one will notice. As a woman she has low social standing and as a widow she has no social standing. She is a nobody, a phantom to neighbors as she comes and goes from her house. She is so much a non person, we never even learn her name. She is literally a nonentity. At this point the drought has been going on for about 3 1/2 years and she is at the end of her resources.

Notice  that she isn’t saying no to Elijah, she is just pointing out the reality that there isn’t enough for herself, her son and Elijah. 

1 Kings 17:12 NIV “As surely as the Lord your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.”

 She has literally nothing,  she is a nobody and yet….God will use her for great things.

 


Notice also that this woman is a pagan living in a land where they worship false gods.  She is not a Hebrew, she is not a believer, but we do see a little glimmer of faith in her.  Look at the beginning of verse 12,  when she says, “As surely as the LORD your God lives”

She acknowledges that there is a God. That is the beginning of faith.  Hebrews 1:6 says;And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Then an amazing thing happened look at verses 13-15

Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. For this is what the Lord , the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.’ ”  She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family.

What happened there? Did you see that leap? She goes from a teeny tiny faith to enormously huge faith, in the blink of an eye. Amazing!

Elijah asks for the impossible. He asks to be fed first, which will pretty much take all she has. You see that in verse 13. 

1 Kings 17:13 NIV Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son.

He wants her to make the cake, bring it to him and then go back and make the other cakes. She cannot divide what is left to make sure she and her son get some. She must give away what she has first. By all logic and sense she is choosing death for herself and her son. But God, he defies our logic – we see our faith as holding on, when God sees our faith as letting go. 

Now Elijah encourages her – in essence he speaks the Word of God to her, the powerful Word of God, “Don’t be afraid.” 

1 Kings 17:14 NIV For this is what the Lord , the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.’ ”

This woman who is not even named does something that doesn’t make sense, it defies logic, it runs contrary to everything she may have ever done in her life, and she turns to walk to her house…and she has something that she didn’t have just a little bit ago, she had real faith. I mean who in this room could do this? Who here could give up all they had, knowing that it would directly lead to their death, and their child’s death. 

It is one thing to say you believe but quite another thing to take action on that belief.

God doesn’t ask this widow, this mother, to build some great church or be a missionary and travel to other lands. He doesn’t ask her to give up her house, or testify to crowds of people – He asks her for a small piece of bread. Granted, it was all she had, but it wasn’t something that was beyond her everyday life. Faith isn’t about huge projects, it is about everyday life. God uses ordinary, everyday, even somewhat boring, ways to build our faith. 

This woman lets go and the blessings come raining down. It is like the five loaves and two fish that fed five thousand men. The flour and the oil don’t run out. The handful, the limited inventory, the one thing that was between her and death – she let it go. But there’s more to this woman, this mother’s story of faith. 

1 Kings 17:17 NIV Some time later the son of the woman who owned the house became ill. He grew worse and worse, and finally stopped breathing.

For this single mother, what good is an endless jar of flour, if her son cannot share in the blessing? So of course she is angry  In verse 18 She said to Elijah, “What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?”

She has seen a daily miracle, of unending flour, but the death of her son is just too much.

In verse 19 though we see Elijah step into action. 

1 Kings 17:19 NIV “Give me your son,” Elijah replied. He took him from her arms, carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his bed.

If you are a mother you know that Elijah did not take the boy without his mother giving him up, without letting go. I see that like that moment where she turns to go make the cakes of bread, that moment where she let go instead of holding on – right here she does it again. Again she finds herself in weakness and she doesn’t hold on – what does she do? She let’s go.

 

Elijah takes him up and lays him on his bed, stretching himself out three times: “O LORD my God, let this boy’s life return to him!”, “O LORD my God, let this boy’s life return to him!”, “O LORD my God, let this boy’s life return to him!”

1 Kings 17:19‭-‬21 NIV “Give me your son,” Elijah replied. He took him from her arms, carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his bed. Then he cried out to the Lord , “ Lord my God, have you brought tragedy even on this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?” Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried out to the Lord , “ Lord my God, let this boy’s life return to him!”

 

You know the outcome. God hears his cry, God answers his prayer, the son lives. 

1 Kings 17:22‭-‬23 NIV The Lord heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s life returned to him, and he lived. Elijah picked up the child and carried him down from the room into the house. He gave him to his mother and said, “Look, your son is alive!”

 

Talk about a mother’s day present. This woman had a leap of faith when the flour and oil wouldn’t run out, but this time it is different. You know that she had to believe before – but this is unprecedented.

Verse 24, Then the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the LORD from your mouth is the truth.”

This single mother starts off as a woman who has a tiny sparkle of faith, a faith that is only enough to see her through one more meal and that is pretty much all she has. But you know what, that is enough. It is enough for God to change her world in a split second.

Stop waiting for the details. Stop holding on to what you have. Stop holding on to that thing you have been holding on to – and let go, and leave the rest to God.   Rebecca reminded me last week of something Charles Stanley said "obey God and leave the consequences to Him. 

O most loving Father, you want us to give thanks for all things, to dread nothing but losing you, and to cast all our anxiety on you because you care for us.  Preserve us from faithless fears and worldly anxieties and grant that no clouds of this mortal life may hide from us the light of that love which is immortal, and which you have shown us in your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

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