I have been married for 31 years. It took me long time to understand that there are two kinds of conversations: emotional conversations and problem-solving conversations. If you have not figured it out until now, this can help you. I donâ€™t know about you but as a man, I always think I should fix the problems. But you see sometimes our wives like to have an emotional conversation where the intention is not to fix things. The intention of that conversation is listening and understanding without trying to fix. By the way, if you try to fix, it ends up in a worse situation. Yet, there are conversations intended for problem solving. If you just stand there, listen and do nothing, it doesnâ€™t go anywhere. She is waiting for you to jump in, fix the problem or find a solution. Donâ€™t stare at her face and say you understand. But get out and do something.
Brother Jim is not having an emotional conversation, my dear CACC family; he is having a problem-solving conversation. James interested to solve a key problem in our lives. We are sinners and we need Christ; Christ should be manifested in our lives. He is practical, direct, to the point. He likes to see our faith and wisdom manifested, revealed. Our words and our faith, our mouth and our action should be in harmony. In todayâ€™s passage, James goes further even to the point of being offensive. Donâ€™t get offended; be open to hear what God is saying to you from His WORD.
What is bothering you? What needs to be fixed? Are you facing financial problem? Are you facing health issues? Is it emotional, sociological? Are you alone? Do you have genuine friends? Are you betrayed? Are you worried about what will happen to CACC after Badevli leaves?
Perhaps the problem is getting along with people in the church or outside the church. Brother Jim already brought forth so many problems, anger, too much talking and too little listening, ignoring the needs of the poor, greed, hypocrisy, pride and selfish ambitions, it is all about meâ€¦. And it seems in todayâ€™s passage brother Jim is dealing with a split in the church. There is a division. There is war. He will see how God would help us solve this problem.
He starts with a question (like last weekâ€™s passage):
â€œWhat causes quarrels and what causes fights among you?â€Â (James 4:1a ESV) He knew that there was a fight going on in the church. He knew there was some kind of division in the church. We donâ€™t know the nature of the argument. But from his answer, one can see that there is a serious problem within the church.
Brother Jim answers his question with another question:
â€œIs it not this, that your passions areÂ at war within you?â€ (James 4:1b ESV) â€œDon't they come from your desires that battle within you?â€ (James 4:1b NIV) Let us assume you had an important appointment with your wife and you forgot it. After some time, she will say: â€œDidnâ€™t we have date today?â€ Then she will ask, â€œDid you forget to write it down and save the date?â€ The second question is making the point. James is raising a second question making the point about our desires. Desires are great motivators; yet desires can be dangerous if they are not â€œdomesticated.â€ Jim says, the problem is more than quarrels; the problem is in your heart, in your soul.
Our conflicts start from our desires. The Greek word is hedone. From this word the word Hedonism is derived. In philosophy, hedonism means the pursuit of pleasure as a purpose. Hedonism is pleasure-seeking as a way of life. â€œTaken to its extreme, it is relentless and ruthless pursuit of personal pleasure without regard for the others.â€(David Roper)
Why arenâ€™t dictators stepping down from their thrones? Why do nations dominate or kill the other? Why do we fight with our loved ones at home? Why do we fight even within the church? Why did Cain kill Abel, the first homicide in the universe?
Paul was honest about his past. He wrote to young Titus: â€œAt one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.â€ (Titus 3:3 NIV)
Desires, do we know what we want?
-Psychologists say because we are social beings, we strive to fulfill two important innermost desires: to be loved and to feel that we are significant.
Where can we find love? How do we feel we are significant?
C.S. Lewis writes in his sermon â€œThe Weight of Gloryâ€(1942):
â€œIndeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.â€
We are confused and sometimes lose our aim and direction. Little â€œmud piesâ€ give us temporary satisfaction. We stop there and lose the greater picture of the wonderful things God wants to offer us.1
So what are we going to do with our desires?
Do we need desire? Is desire an emotion created by God?
Let me clarify one thing. Pleasure and desire are good, God created them.
â€œForÂ everything created by God is good, andÂ nothing is to be rejected if it isÂ received with thanksgiving,Â 5Â for it is made holyÂ (put to its intended use) by the word of God and prayer. (1 Tim 4:4-5 ESV) (Italics added).
God created all these feelings and desires in us. We distorted them by sinning. You see pleasure becomes unlawful when we steal a watermelon, and we lose the enjoyment of eating it. We need to be domesticated. (The meekness of wisdom)
But because of our wrong desires, we envy, fight, quarrel and kill.
You desire and do not have, so you murder.Â You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. (James 4:2ESV)
King David stole Bathsheba from her husband Uriah (2 Sam 11,12). The pleasure of marriage was lost. His self pride was dominating in stealing the â€œonly lamb of the neighborâ€ as prophet Nathan said to King David, when confronting him with his sin.
Josephâ€™s brothers were jealous of their brother, they sold him as slave.
Coming back to James, the argument was not a theological debate; I believe their argument was based on power, who controls who? They craved influence. They wanted to be in control. They fought because their hearts were filled with envy, with desires for things they wanted but did not have.
Is this a problem today in our lives? Of course, and brother James is warning us today as well.
You do not have, because you do not ask.Â 3Â You ask and do not receive, because you askÂ wrongly, to spend it on your passions. (James 4:2b, 3)
How much time we give to God in prayer? We are too busy to ask; we donâ€™t want God to be involved in our lives; we donâ€™t even believe He can help; and if we try to bring God in the equation, it is all about US, me, my wants and desires.
Another reason that we donâ€™t ask God is because we are asking someone else or finding our satisfactions in something else.
So sad some attend church or even accept Christ for personal desire and gain. God is not a genie bottle that will grant your wishes. Others bargain with God: â€œGod, if you do this and that to me, then Iâ€™ll be faithful to you.â€
It does not work that way.
-What matters Most?
You adulterous people!Â Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?Â Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.Â (James 4:4 ESV)
Let us be careful how we read those verses. I have friends from the world. I believe we should have friends from the world. We are in the world but not of the world. The point here is in the context of priorities. I mean when your worldly values take over. The point here is when other things replace God. Is God first for you? Does God come first in your life? What matters most in your life? What is the most important thing in your life? Is there anything else taking the place of God? What are your idols?
Thus, James turns around gives an important point:
-Submit to God
Submit yourselves therefore to God.Â Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.Â 8Â Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.( James 4:7,8 ESV)
This is the key verse in this passage: Submit to God, surrender yourself to God
Some wander why we are moving to Fresno. Some think Fresno is too hot. Some think Fresno is a boring place. Some think no one leaves San Francisco to go to Fresno.
My simple answer to you is we are obeying God. We basically prayed and asked for new doors for ministry; and His will is not based on the beauty of cities or the weather. Let me remind you how we came to this church 12 years ago. Some thought we came to the US so that we leave Lebanon (the Middle East). Some thought we came because my brother lives here. Some thought we came because of my childrenâ€™s future. People misjudged us. When I left Beirut, my ministry was booming. Emmanuel church was full of people. We had made new pews and they were filled. I loved Lebanon and I do until today. We prayed and came here because we obeyed God. We knew God is leading us for a purpose; we obeyed His will. And now in the same way, we continue praying that God will bring a new pastor to CACC and may He use us in Fresno.
My first sermon to you 12 years ago was get out of the boat, so God can use you. Get out of your comfort zone and be useful in His Kingdom. After 12 years, I will repeat the same message: Surrender to God, ask His will for your life, and be a useful instrument of God. Brother James is practical; he is challenging us by putting our words in action, our faith in expression and manifestation.
Thus, my last words to you:
Be empty, come poor, be ready to be filled with Godâ€™s Spirit.
Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you,
I know this is the Bay area, and the financial challenge is enormous comparing with other places in the world. Yet, financial challenges can become a hindrance for each of us to submit to His Will. Watch outâ€¦
Draw near to God, and God is there in open arms waiting to embrace you.
1 Please read more about what C.S. Lewis said in that sermon about desires. You can find online at: http://www.verber.com/mark/xian/weight-of-glory.pdf
In the beginning of 2017 a movie was released called â€œThe Last Words.â€ The main actress was Shirley MacLaine. She represented a retired businesswoman who wanted to control everything in her life, including her obituary. Strange, she hired a young writer from the local newspaper to write her obituary while she was alive. Poor writer! She interviews 20 people who knew this rich woman to get some information about her. She got nothing positive about her. And the story starts there. Suddenly this elderly, selfish, retired businesswoman faced what is important in life. Suddenly she faced the reality of life. Who has the last word in your life?
Brother James moves deeper in his writings about the essentials of a Christ-centered life. We all want to live meaningful lives and I believe this desire is God-given. We all want to live significantly and leave a legacy that will survive. Brother James is bold when it comes to the basic principles in Christian life, such as church leadership, teaching, being the Christ-like person from the heart, not just on the lips. We should be â€œdoersâ€ rather than â€œhearersâ€ only. We cannot claim we have faith when we ignore the poor, the orphan, the widow. If our actions do not match our words, there is something wrong.
Today Brother James raises an important question: Who is wise and understanding among you?Â (James 3:13a ESV)
â€œWisdom in the Bible originally meant technical experience or the ability to do a job wellâ€ (David Roper). It means having the right skill in dealing with whatever happens in life: the capacity to live a life that ought to be lived. James is not interested in whether one knows about wisdom. It is not what we know that makes us wise, but what we are. Thus the source is not our abilities; it is not our DNA. You can be a genius but not wise. The source is from God, from ABOVE. Wisdom from ABOVE.
Evidence that one has wisdom from above:
â€œBy his good conduct let him show his worksÂ in the meekness of wisdom.â€ (James 3:13b ESV)Â
Wisdom from above is revealed, just like genuine faith is revealed and manifested.
Two important words here need to be discussed: Good and Meekness. (????? kalos, and ???????c praotes.)
In Greek, there are two words describing good: Kalos and Agatos.
-Agatos means: purely, intrinsically noble. Something that is good whatever someone notices it or not; it is good in itself.
-Kalos means attractive, beautiful, delightful.
James uses kalos here. Wisdom will appear on the person whose life is beautiful, attractive, holy, a life that makes our invisible Lord visible.
Peter expressed it best: â€œKeep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers,Â they may see your good deeds and glorify God onÂ the day of visitation.â€ (1 Peter 2:12ESV)
We will continue in English.
â€œBy his good conduct let him show his worksÂ in the meekness of wisdom.â€ (James 3:13b ESV)Â
-Good conduct and Meekness.
-Kalos: means attractive, beautiful, delightful.
James uses kalos here. Wisdom will appear on the person whose life is beautiful, attractive, holy, a life that makes our invisible Lord visible.
-Meekness: The word meekness in Greek is Praotes.
Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the world.
In the sermon on Mount we discussed this word. My sermon title was the Power of Meekness. Meekness is not being a doormat. No, by all means, no.
It has two applications:
1. Aristotle saw it as the happy medium between too much and too little anger. William Barclay translates this word: â€œBlessed is the person who is always angry at the right time and never angry at the wrong time.â€1
2. Another meaning one can find in Greek language for meek, Praus. â€œIt is the regular word for an animal which has been domesticated.â€2
There is power in meekness. Blessed are the meek, the ones who trust God, the ones who make a choice to give the control to God, the ones who listen, who wait for the Lord, who are not envious and jealous, the ones who restrain their tongue, the ones who are angry at the right time for the right cause.
So in my own words, James seems to be saying: â€œWho is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good and beautiful life, by deeds done in the gentle meekness of wisdom.â€
A life lived wisely is beautiful to behold; it is gentle and humble in nature.
Brother James spoke about genuine, true faith in chapter 2; faith should be expressed and manifested, right?
Wisdom from above, genuine wisdom, Godly wisdom will be expressed also. Its qualities will appear and oneâ€™s character will changeâ€¦
Now, watch out:
First, how do we get Wisdom from above?
James already mentioned in chapter one:
If any of you lacks wisdom,Â let him ask God,Â who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.Â 6Â ButÂ let him ask in faith, with no doubting.. (James 1:5-6 ESV)
We pray for different reasons. We ask God for different things. I wonder if we pray to God and ask for wisdom, not any kind of wisdom, but wisdom that is from ABOVE. Wisdom that is meek and gentle. Wisdom that leads you to trust God and obey Him.
Let me ask the question James raised again:
Who is wise and understanding among you?
This is a relevant question to ask in Bay Area. This is the city of wisdom and understanding, right?
Last week I was saying we live in the abundance of information. What are we doing with that information? Are we becoming better citizens?
Let me quote you Bernard of Clairvaux from the 11th century (1090-1153)
â€œThere are those who seek knowledge for the sake of knowledge, that is curiosity. There are those who seek knowledge to be known by others, that is vanity. There are those who seek knowledge in order to serve, that is love.â€
Brother James is interested in genuine faith and wisdom. And the source is not us; it is God who gives it to all of us. Be ready to receive it in meekness.
-Wisdom which is earthly
Brother Jim describes wisdom from below:
But if you have bitterÂ jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth.Â 15Â This is notÂ the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual,Â demonicâ€¦(James 3:14-15ESV)
Bitter jealousy, selfish ambition, boasting; talking false truth; in other words, a prideful person who just thinks about his/her ambitions.
Listen to what C.S. Lewis said about pride: â€œPride is essentially competitiveâ€¦Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. We say that people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good-looking, but they are not. They are proud of being richer, or cleverer, or better looking than others. If everyone else became equally rich, or clever, or good-looking, there would be nothing to be proud about. It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest.â€ 3Â This is the wisdom from below.
-Wisdom from ABOVE
ButÂ the wisdom from above is first pure, thenÂ peaceable, gentle, open to reason,Â full of mercy and good fruits,Â impartial andÂ sincere.18Â AndÂ a harvest of righteousnessÂ is sown in peace by those who make peace. (James 3:17-18 ESV)
Pure: Sourp hagonosâ€¦
It carries the sense of having moral and spiritual integrity;
Peaceable: someone who believes in having the right relationships. Many of us are all too willing to sacrifice purity for the sake of peace. First pure, if you need to live in right relationships with each other, the truth should come out to be peaceable. No inner peace in cover-upâ€¦
Gentle (considerate): We will not be quick to anger or harsh with others; instead we will show kindness and generosity.
Open to reason (Submissive): Have you worked with people saying: my way or highway? Nothing for reason, nothing for talking and learning..
â€œDo 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.â€ Philippians 2:3-4
Full of mercy and good fruits: The merciful person handles people with sensitivity and compassion. He/she understands when people suffer to make stupid mistakes. He/she feels with them and offers them love, care and compassion.
Impartial andÂ sincere: We already discussed about being impartial, no favoritismâ€¦
Harvest of righteousness. In sermon on the mount I defined righteousness having right relationshipsâ€¦.
Dave Dravecky. Dave was a very successful pitcher for the San Francisco Giants baseball team (1987-89) and was quite open about his Christian faith. After seven years in the major leagues, he had to have his arm and shoulder amputated due to cancer. Which means he could not play anymore baseball. A reporter asked him if he was bitter about losing his arm, resulting in the end of his professional baseball career. Dave responded, â€œAs a follower of Christ I have come to measure success not in the height of my achievements, but in the depth of my relationships.â€ Wisdom from above teaches us to face life with this attitude.
In the Armenian sermon I said: Godly Wisdom means having the right skill in dealing with whatever happens in life: the capacity to live a life that ought to be lived. James is not interested in whether one knows about wisdom. It is not what we know that makes us wise, but what we are. Thus the source is not our abilities; it is not our DNA. You can be a genius but not wise. The source is from God, from ABOVE.
Again, I will ask the question brother Jim asked: â€œwho is wise and understanding among you?â€
Or let me ask in different way: â€œWhat is the quality of your relationships? Are they characterized by meekness, gentleness, purity and peace? Is there evidence of peace, open to reason, submissiveness, mercy, impartiality and sincerity?â€
Ask wisdom from above, and you will receive.
Be Thou my Wisdom, Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee, Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.
1. William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible, Matthew P 96
3. C.S. Lewis,Â Mere ChristianityÂ (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., Collier Books, 1952), 109.
We hear so many sad stories about bullying. Last year I heard a story about a young boy was bullied and, as a result, he killed himself.
We speak around 8 million words in our lifetime. That is a lot of words. What are we saying to each other?
Words can be either harmful or fruitful!
Please check yourself this morning. Are you an edifier, encourager or a criticizer who always sees something wrong in people and situations?
-Words can lead us to the right or wrong directions. We need to discipline our words. How many times you said things about which you regretted and wished you had held your mouthâ€¦
If we putÂ bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well.Â 4Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs.Â 5So also the tongue is a small member, yetÂ it boasts of great things. (James 3:3-5)
Two metaphors: a bit in the horseâ€™s mouth and a ship rudder. Both metaphors draw the picture of a huge thing (whether a horse or a or ship) that can be directed to the right destination.
Illustration: Last year I met former students from the Ainjar School. These twin brothers came to school neglected from their family. We raised them in Ainjar. Those kids had behavioral issues in the school. They were always in trouble. The worst thing was that some teachers told them: â€œYou guys will never be someone.â€ Tovk mart bidi [ullak1 They saw me in Beirut after many years. They were successful restaurant owners in Lebanon. They said: â€œBadveli, you always encouraged us with your kind words when no one believed in us. Thank you for your words.â€
Words can lead people to despair (wrong direction) or to success with encouragement (right direction).
Brother James adds a new metaphor: an undisciplined tongue is like fire.
How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!Â 6AndÂ the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members,Â staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life,Â and set on fire by hell. (James 3:5-6)
How do you stop bad words? How do you stop spreading rumors? How do you stop gossip? Once the word is out, you cannot catch it anymore, like a small fire that can burn thousand acres of land. In California, we see that happening every summer.
In the following verses, Brother James encourages us to tame the tongue, because the same mouth is cursing and praising God. That is not right.
Wordsâ€¦ words matter.
-How about looking back to Genesis and seeing how words mattered to God.
In the beginning, nothing was thereâ€¦ â€œand God saidâ€¦â€ For six days, we see â€œGod saidâ€¦â€
Wordsâ€¦ God said and it was createdâ€¦God filled the void. God spoke and the day and the night, the moon and the stars, light and darkness, waters and lands, animals eventually humans were created. Let there be LIFE!
These words were intended to tell us something very true about the character and the nature of God. God fills voids. God brings life. God is the master artist who speaks and createsâ€¦ Isnâ€™t this wonderful?
God brings something into being, and then he affirms it. He adds value. He uses His words to bless. A.W. Tozer sums this part of God's character. He says, "This word of God is the breath of God filling the world with living potentiality."1
Genesis chapter 3 brings another reality, where words can deceive and destroy. When the Devil speaks, it destroys. The serpent deceived humanity with words. And it is like a domino effect. The blame game started each blaming the other for their disobedience to God. Until today, we play this game, never taking responsibility of our sin and blaming someone elseâ€¦
Words matter: words can destroy or build; words can bless or curse; words can create or deceive and destroy.
-Words are from your heart
A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. (Luke 6:45NIV)
The tongue, the mouth is where the words are uttered. But the tongue is actually just a muscle which is controlled by our heart, our innermost being.
-If you examine yourself and find that your words are destructive, it means there is something wrong in your heart. There are dark parts in your heart. You heart needs cleansing.
Jesus criticized the Pharisees and the Scribes because their heart was not cleansed. Jesus made a point that related with the people who looked at the outside. â€œThese people honor me with their lips,Â but their hearts are far from meâ€ (Matthew 15:8NIV)
David Roper says:
â€œOur words are formed deep within in our hearts. Good words come from the good in us; evil words flow from the evil we have accumulated within. If we want to deal with our tongues, weâ€™ve got to get our minds right.â€ 2
Solomon warns about the heart:
â€œWatch over your heart with all diligence,
For from it flow the springs of life.
Put away from you a deceitful mouth,
And put devious lips far from you.â€ (Prov. 4:23-24 NAS)
There is a story attributed to Cherokee wisdom:
One evening a grandfather was teaching his young grandson about the internal battle that each person faces.
"There are two wolves struggling inside each of us," the old man said.
"One wolf is vengefulness, anger, resentment, self-pity, fear...
"The other wolf is compassion, faithfulness, hope, truth, love..."
The grandson sat, thinking, then asked: "Which wolf wins, Grandfather?"
His grandfather replied, "The one you feed."
Paul says it best in the Word of God:
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Phil 4:8ESV)
1. AW Tozer: The Pursuit of God. - World Invisible, chapter 6: The Speaking Voice
2. David Roper: Seeing God
I hated it when teachers showed favoritism at school. Some students came from certain influential families and they were the chosen ones. I hated favoritism.
Favoritism existed in the life of the early church. People of high class in the Roman world of the 1st Century would be wearing golden rings on their fingers. Only senators, high-rank officials or rich men could wear those rings. If you were not one of them, you could be punished or beaten for wearing a golden ring. Wearing certain clothes was also exclusive for certain people. Clothing was all about reinforcing status. Everyone knew it and everyone accepted it. Not so for Brother James. Society was built around the recognition and preservation of rank and status. That meant you would get your seating arrangements according to your status. Like when you enter a flight these days, you walk by the first class till you get to your seat in economy class.
This was engrained in their culture. Is it also true in our culture as well?
Even disciples asked for favoritism. John and James (Son of Zebedee) pleaded Jesus: â€œGrant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.â€ (Mark 10:37ESV). Jesus said you donâ€™t know what you are asking for.
Brother James, the brother of Jesus teaches us there is no favoritism when we are facing our Lord Jesus Christ. God sees each of us a unique person, His beloved child. God loves His creation, regardless of our social status.
Let us clarify one thing. The rich does not automatically mean oppressor and poor automatically the favorites of God. On the other hand, the rich usually depend on their wealth and do not seek God; and the poor in their poverty tend to seek God.
The turning point in this passage is this verse:
Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? (James 2:5 ESV)
Paul also says: â€œBut God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong. (1 Corinthians 1:27ESV)
The point is this. God chose one side, the side of the poor. This is not favoritism. God chose the poor, because there is no other way to come to God. One has to be poor in spirit to be ready to be filled with Godâ€™s presence in his/her life.
Therefore: â€œBlessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heavenâ€. (Matthew 5:3 ESV)
In my sermons on the Beatitudes, I was teaching you that Jesus taught us values that the world will reject. His teaching was about â€œliving right-side up in an upside down world.â€ N.T. Wright says: â€œGod is acting in and through Jesus to turn the world upside downâ€¦ to pour out lavish â€˜blessingsâ€™ on all who now turn to him and accept the new thing that he is doing.â€
Dallas Willard says: "The great inversion. God now is turning everything upside down. This transcends human arrangements, culture, politicsâ€¦everything."
What can I learn from this short passage?
Jesus Christ is the Good News, Avedis. It's good news for the poor, the orphans, the widows, the trafficked, the hungry, the bullied, the refugees, as well as the engineers, the startup CEOs, the venture capitalists, for all.
Our prayer is: "God, you're watching over me all the time, you donâ€™t look at my worldly status, you care about my commitment and heart. Here's my heart. How can I love you more?"
Donâ€™t we like giving opinions about everything? We often give opinions even when weâ€™re not asked. Whether we know the topic or not, we share our views. I donâ€™t mean to say Christians should have no opinions. In fact, we need convictions and not just empty opinions. We need to believe in what we say, and courageously stand behind our beliefs. We may be experts in sharing opinions, but when it comes to obedience to the Wordâ€¦ I am not sure.
Quick to Listen and Quick to Obey: Do IT
â€œDo not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.Â Â Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirrorÂ and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.Â (22-24)
Our Lord Jesus said:
Why do you call me, â€˜Lord, Lord,â€™ and do not do what I say? (Luke 6:46)
We keep hearing and not obeying. â€œWhy do you call me â€˜Lord, Lordâ€™ when your life does not show that you believe in me? When you listen and not obey the Word, you deceive yourself.â€
In fact, Jesus continues with the parable of wise man who builds his house on a rock (commitment to Jesus, foundation on the solid ground of His Word) and the foolish man who builds his house on sand (easy to build, instant results, no commitment, no strings attached...).
James gives the example of a mirror. How long do you remember what you saw in the mirror? Do you take action to fix whatever needs to be fixed? If you just go by and forget what you saw in the mirror, it will be like reading the Word of God and doing nothing about it.
When you hear something, do it, take action. Do not postpone or ignore.
Do not be like young Augustine who said: â€œMake me pure, Lord, but not yet!â€
You see, when we hear the Word of God, like just now when you are in the listening mood, data will go in. The process of thinking is the next thing. Then comes applying and taking action. James says, â€œActâ€. Jesus says, â€œStop saying Lord, Lord when you are not going to obey me!â€
Here is the advice Screwtape (Big Devil) gives to Wormwood (Little Devil):
â€œThe great thing is to prevent the Christian from doing anything. As long as it does not convert it into action, it does not matter how much he thinks about this new experience. Let him wallow in it. Let him write book about it; this is an excellent way of sterilizing the seeds which is the Enemy plants in the human soul. Let him do anything but act.â€1 (CS Lewis)
I donâ€™t care how religious you are. If the Word of God is not actively transforming your life daily into a Christ-like character, there is something wrong in your walk. Walk the talk.
1. CS Lewis, Screwtape Letters
Joy is something everyone searches. People want to live happy lives. Last week the United Arab Emirates appointed a minister for the newly founded Ministry of Happiness. There is another country that has such a Ministry. It is Venezuela.
Life, Liberty and Purse of happiness
Top 20 'Happy' Songs of All Time according Billboard.com
-Happy Together (The Turtles) (1967)
-Donâ€™t Worry Be Happy (Bobby McFerrin) (1988)
-â€œThe Happy Organ,â€ Dave 'Baby' Cortez (1959)
-â€œMy Happiness,â€ Connie Francis (1958)
-â€œIf You Wanna Be Happy,â€ Jimmy Soul (1963)
-â€œYouâ€™ve Made Me So Very Happy,â€ Blood, Sweat & Tears (1969)
-â€œLove Can Make You Happy,â€ Mercy (1969)
-â€œHappy Days,â€ Pratt & McClain with Brother Love (1976)
- Happy (From Despicable me2) Pharrell Williams (2013) (800 miliion hits)
Many and many songs are composed about happiness. Even governments are interested in creating happiness in the society in raising the happiness index.
What Jesus is saying in the context that we will have joy and the joy will not be taken from us.
These things I have spoken to you, that myÂ joyÂ may be in you, and that yourÂ joyÂ may be full. (John 15:11)
You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. (John 16:20 ESV)
So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take yourÂ joyÂ from you. (John 16:22 ESV)
Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that yourÂ joyÂ may be full. (John 16:24 ESV)
But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have myÂ joy fulfilled in themselves. (John 17:13 ESV)
Seven times Jesus mentions JOY. My Joy may be in you; your Joy may be full; your hearts will rejoice; no one will take your Joy from you; my Joy will be fulfilled in themselves.
Having a joyful heart is like medicine to you, to your household, and to your environment. The world seeks happiness and joy. We use these words interchangeably. â€œLife, Liberty and the Pursuit of happinessâ€ is a well-known phrase in the United States Declaration of Independence.
Let me remind you again the context of John 13-17 which contains the last words of Jesus before completing his earthly ministry. Those chapters are called the Upper Room discourse. Jesus is departing. The disciples are saddened and confused. Jesus is preparing them for those times by repeating the phrase, â€œLet not your hearts be troubled.â€
The world will reject us. The world will hate us. But the world cannot take from us the JOY that Jesus promised to give us.
What is this joy that no one can take away? Is it a feeling? How can we have it?
- Jesus found joy in obeying the will of His Father
Jesusâ€™ life was fulfilled by pleasing His Father. Jesus experienced joy by obeying the will of His Father and remaining in his Fatherâ€™s love. â€œMy food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. (John 4:34)
Jesusâ€™ incarnation has a goal. He came because he obeyed his Father. It was his Fatherâ€™s will that Jesus would be born and go all the way to the cross to pay the penalty of sin. Humanity was fallen in sin. There was no other alternative to repair this world.
I searched songs about happiness and joy. I found interesting songs:
What are those things that Jesus taught us?
1. JOY in knowing God
Which means you acknowledge that there is only one God, (who expresses himself in triune way, God the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit) that we glorify and worship.
But now, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. (Isaiah 64:8)
Knowing that our God is supreme, the BEST, the creator, the redeemer, the Alpha and Omega, and I am his creature is the sense of having inner peace and joy.
Funny, we do this in sport. We go and watch basketball games where they are really supreme (just watch a Warriors game). We go and listen to musicians who are masters of the instrument. We go to museums to see paintings of giants of art. Why? We enjoy watching, observing, listening to the MASTERS.
John Piper says it well:
Why are we willing to be exposed in all these places as utterly inferior? How can we get so much joy out of watching people magnify their superiority over us? The biblical answer is thatÂ we were made by God to get our deepest joys not from being superior ourselves but from enjoying Godâ€™s superiority.1
Do you enjoy Godâ€™s supremacy on your life? God is my potter, and I am the clay. If this concept does not enter in your heart, you will never, never, never find HIS JOY.
2. Joy in Experiencing Godâ€™s Presence
Psalm writer says:
You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness ofÂ joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11)
You love your spouse and you enjoy your relationship not only when they do something for you. You enjoy being with hour spouse. Our joy is not based on merits. We cannot get the approval of God. His Grace is sufficient. By the way, Joy and Grace come from same word Chara. Godâ€™s grace is given to us as gift. His joy is knowing Him and being in Him. IN your presence there is fullness of JOY. Do you like to experience Godâ€™s joy this way?
Rick Warren says: Everyday relax in Godâ€™s grace. I need to remind myself everyday who God is in my life. That is a great source of JOY.
3. Joy in obedience and trust
The best example is Jesus. His obedience to His Fatherâ€™s will. He constantly reminded us in his words that he comes from the Father. He does his Fatherâ€™s will. He trusts his Father.
God is my GPS. (Godâ€™s Pointing System). I do not see the future. I do know He knows and He leads me. I obey and trust Him. It means â€œI get out of the boat and walk on the waterâ€¦â€
Let me just remind you one of the parables. When Jesus said the parable of talents, the one who got 5 and 2 invested and brought everything to their master. They obeyed and the commands of the master. The response of master is so important:
His master said to him, â€˜Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.â€™ (Matthew 25:21 ESV)
Learning to trust God when I see how God is using Nanorâ€¦.
4. Joy in waiting for the LORD
How do you start your day? What are you looking forward everyday to happen to you?
â€œBe still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!â€(Psalm 46:10)
Dallas Willard said once:
â€œYou must arrange your days so that you are experiencing total contentment, joy, and confidence in your everyday life with God â€“ that and that alone is what makes a soul healthy.â€
â€œBLESSED are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they go right on producing delicious fruit.â€(Jeremiah 17:7-8 NLT)
Let me repeat the four ideas:
1. JOY in knowing God
2. Joy in Experiencing Godâ€™s Presence
3. Joy in obedience and trust
4. Joy in waiting for the LORD
What are you waiting for? Recvice His Joy in your heartâ€¦
What does it mean to be slow to speak?
While you are slow in speaking, allow God to talk to you. While you are slowing down, allow God to appear in your relationships.
Some of us talk too muchâ€¦ Just imagine a STOP sign. Just please ask yourself right my voice?â€
This week, I would like to work on this. Slow down in your talk and do not interrupt others who are talking with you. I am not good in this. I always interrupt others. I am asking you and myself: allow others to talk and do not interrupt.
You see I think we interrupt because we like to be in control. Just allow the control to be in the hand of God and not yours. Relax, be calmâ€¦ allow God to work in your lifeâ€¦
When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent. (Proverbs 10:19 ESV)
Donâ€™t talk so much. You keep putting your foot in your mouth. Be sensible and turn off the flow! (Proverbs 10:19 NLT)
My mom often advised me those verses.
Words and words and wordsâ€¦
Are you hiding behind words and wordsâ€¦? Ask yourself: â€œGod, what are those words telling me? Is there something going on in my soul that needs to be healed? Am I afraid to expose my soul to you and words are just coming out covering my real problems?â€
2. What does it mean to be quick to hear?
The word quick or swift can give us a wrong impression about the act of listening. It does not mean to listen to someone superficially.
Quick here means EAGER to listen, having the desire to understand or hear the person.
Listening is an act of HUMILITY. Listening is SERVANTHOOD.
It has two folds: hearing God and hearing people around us.
Counselors teach us the skill of active listening; it helps communication and the building of good relationships.
I have already spoken about listening to â€œothersâ€ carefully when we speak less.
Do you listen to God? Do you hear God? James is asking his audience to be EAGER to listen to the word of truth, having the passion to meet God and the patience to pay attention to God. It means it is a priority to listen to God. To listen or to hear the word of God in OT had one meaning: obey Godâ€™s voice. To listen and hear is not just a cognitive exercise; it is a relationship of obedience to God our maker.
-My example in listening carefully (to be EAGER to listen) is God himself.
Do you know our God listens?
Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear. (Isaiah 65:24 ESV)
God hears our prayers, God listens. It does not mean He obeys us, but God is my Father, Daddy. He listens to his children communicating with HIM.
Illustration: I have witnessed this many times in my life. I have seen how God listens to me; and he answers according to His will.
-My next example of learning how to listen is Jesus himself. He loved us; he asked questions, important questionsâ€¦ good listeners ask questions.
"What do you want?" "Who do the people say I am?" "Who do you say I am?" "What were you arguing aboutâ€¦?" he asked his disciples. "Why do you call me good?" "You of little faith, why did you doubt?" "Do you love me?" He asked Peter that question three times.
I was listening to pastor John Ortberg about this topic and he gave me those ideas about Jesus asking questions. How many questions do you think Jesus asked in the bible? 307 questions, and he answered only 3 of them.
Ortberg gives two reasons:
1. Jesus asked questions all the time. Very often, he'd pose a question and then not even give people the answer. Part of what that tells us is Jesus would ask questions of tax collectors, prostitutes, fishermen, religious experts, and Gentiles because he was more interested in them than he was in himself. Life works that way in the Kingdom of God.
2. Then I think another reason Jesus would ask so many questions is he understood that a lot of times a good question can help somebody more than the right answer. Sometimes in the church, people of faith are so into wanting to make sure we know the right answer, we get other people to affirm the right answer. It's interesting how often Jesus just posed questions, because a lot of times people have to grow way more wrestling with the question than they do just hearing an answer.1
Jesus is the answer to the deepest searches in our lives. He is the answer to deep theological questions. The triune God works in mysterious ways with humanity. There are many questions raised in the Bible. Teachers say the best way we learn is asking questions. Struggling to find answers is another way to grow in faith. This is simple way to understand the triune God working with us.
3. Slow to Anger
James adds that people who speak a lot and they do not listen to God, eventually become angry and uncontrolled.
Paul said in Ephesians 4:26, â€œin you anger do not sinâ€.
However, human anger is usually destructive because it is self-centered.
â€œAnger is a means of communicating what we care about â€“ usually ourselves. It is a chemical and psychological reaction to our displeasure that the world is not as we wish.â€2Â
We are often angry for selfish reasons.
-Someone is driving slowly.
-You come home and there is nothing to eat. (ThisÂ is me)
-You go to the movie theater and there as a long line.
-You come to the church banquet, andÂ you areÂ seated at a table you donâ€™t like.
James says: for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.Â 21Â ThereforeÂ put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive withÂ meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
Can we become angry for good reason?
-God was angry when His people were in sin and committing injustice.
-Jesus was angry when the Pharisees and scribes misused Godâ€™s law. Instead of worshiping God, they worshiped the â€œlawâ€.
-John StottÂ says, â€œThe person who does not get angry does not care.â€
See what motivates your anger?
One â€œQuickâ€™ and two â€œslowâ€s
We give an opinion about everything. I mean we give opinions more than necessary. â€œChurch attendeesâ€ are experts in giving opinions, but when it comes to obedience to the Wordâ€¦ I am not sure. We need people of transformed character, and not just opinion givers. Therefore:
Be angryÂ and do not sin;Â ponder in your own heartsÂ on your beds, and be silent. OfferÂ right sacrifices,Â and put yourÂ trust in theÂ LORD. Psalms 4:4-5ESV)
Complain if you must, but donâ€™t lash out.
Keep your mouth shut, and let your heart do the talking.
Build your case before God and wait for his verdict. (Psalm 4:405 MSG)
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
Be quick and eager to listen and obey. Take time to recline quietly in your bed (in your quiet place) to search your heart so you can hear His voice. Ask questions like: â€œLord, how is my heart? How is my soul doing?â€ â€œWhy I am angry?â€ â€œHow can you heal my bitterness?â€
2Â NIV commentary on Ephesians p 256.
We are studying the book of James. We covered last Sunday how Brother Jim prepared his audience regarding the trials that would come. He taught us to consider our trials pure joy. They will become and opportunity to shape our character. Trials are not something we look for; they are not things that make us happy or joyful. Yet, when they visit us, we can learn that God is with us and He teaches us to trust HIM, and that eventually becomes a joyful experience.
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receiveÂ the crown of life,Â which God has promised to those who love him. (James 1:12ESV)
The process of becoming perfect, as James says, will continue until one day we receive the crown of life. Stay firm, my sister and brother, stay firm and steadfast. God is with us carrying our burden with us. Let us stay faithful and remain in HIM.
Having said that, I move to the next topic which is something to do with the ears and the mouth. We have one mouth and two ears and there is a reason God created us that way.
â€œKnow this, my beloved brothers: let every personÂ be quick to hear, slow to speak,Â slow to anger;Â â€ (James 1:19ESV)
What is the secret of listening carefully and speaking wisely? How can we learn to do this?
There is ONE â€œQuickâ€ and TWO â€œSlowsâ€. Do you see this?
I was traveling on the plane one day and the passenger behind me was so loud and spoke constantly. I heard everything. We all heard everything. We learned a lot of things about this person. The mouth did not stop the whole time. I wish I had the new headphone that my children gave me that eliminates the outside noise. Have you ever been in a situation where you would say, â€œI wish this mouth stops talkingâ€?
1 What does it mean to be slow to speak?
Slow down was one of the lessons I learned in SoulCare. I donâ€™t think I have mastered it, yet I have become aware of my problem. Extraverts hate to slow down. I donâ€™t need to answer all the questions; I donâ€™t need to react to every voice and word. â€œSlow downâ€â€¦ Solomon says in the wisdom literature:
Those who are sure of themselves do not talk all the time. People who stay calm have real insight.Â After all, even a fool may be thought wise and intelligent if he stays quiet and keeps his mouth shut. (Proverbs 17:27-28a GNB)
Slow to speak does not mean being quiet and storing up your anger. It does not mean you want people to walk all over you. I have seen quiet people who are as harmful as people who are constantly speaking. So it is not just saying something or not. No.
I believe brother James is saying, â€œWhile you are slow in speaking, allow God to talk to you. While you are slowing down, allow God to appear in your relationships. God, I surrender to you my mouth and my words. Use my mouth as you wish and fill it with the words that please youâ€¦â€
To be continued in English.
Do you watch M.A.S.H.? It is a TV show about a medical unit operating close to the war zone in the Korean War. I love the show because I have lived through a war and I have hated it. War is destructive and I hope you will never experience the pain it causes. One of the characters in MASH is called Frank Burns. â€œBrother Jamesâ€ would describe this man as a false Christian. Frank is a married man and he reads his Bible every day. Yet his ongoing love affair and his self-centered life do not reflect anything about his faith. Brother James would say: â€œYour lifestyle matters.â€
It is summertime. I wanted to start a series of sermons based on the book of James. I would like to call him â€œBrother Jamesâ€ or â€œBrother Jim.â€ James is practical and direct. There are 54 commands in 108 verses. James does not talk about dogmatic themes. There are no references to the fall, the cross, the resurrected Jesus, nor any other major Biblical themes. Yet, Brother James takes topics dealing with the fact that a sinful life without Christ will destroy our relationships with God and each other. James is about practical wisdom based to the teachings of Jesus.
You lifestyle matters; your behavior speaks louder than your words. Do our lives reflect our faith? This is the main question.
Who is James?
â€œJames the Justâ€ (as he was called), the brother of Jesus (Matt. 13:55), one of the 12 disciples and the leader of the Jerusalem church (Acts 15).1
James, a servantÂ of God andÂ of the Lord Jesus Christ, ToÂ the twelve tribes inÂ the Dispersion (scattered): Greetings. (James 1:1 ESV)
James addresses â€œthe twelve tribes in the Dispersion, scattered among the nations.â€ The 1st Century Jews believed that the sign of the coming of the Godâ€™s kingdom was when the tribes would gather as one nation. However, they were not gathered; they were scattered all over.
I believe this is used as a metaphor. Jamesâ€™ letter is addressed to all believers scattered all over the world. It reminds me of the Armenian Diaspora. Wherever you go in the world, you find a few Armenians who come together and form a new Armenia, as William Saroyan puts it. Christians are not called to live in a secure, closed, gated community. They are called to live their lives scattered among the nations to spread the aroma of their Lord. â€œFor we are to God theÂ aromaÂ of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.â€ (2 Cor. 2:15)
Jamesâ€™ first message:
Count it all joy, my brothers,Â when you meet trialsÂ of various kinds, (James 1:2 ESV)
When you face trials or tests, consider them all, (pure and great) joy.
How in the world tough situations should be considered as pure, all, and great joy? Can you pass those words to a person who is suffering? Can you share those words with someone who lost his job? Can you share those words with anyone who is in pain?
Question: We all face trials, tough days. But how do we get through tough days?
Count it all joy, my brothers,Â when you meet trialsÂ of various kinds, (James 1:2 ESV)
It is not IF you meet trials, but WHEN you meet trials. So it is only a matter of time until each of us faces those days. What will you do?
Go to Google? To Alexa? To Facebook? To Oprah or Dr. Phil?
James was raised in tough home. We think his father Joseph passed away early when he was a child. So Jesus, James and the other siblings were born and raised in tough times.
James is challenging us. â€œCount it all joyâ€ or in the NIV translation â€œConsider it all pure joy.â€ Can you look at these trials in a new way? Can you consider looking at them from a different perspective?
Why this is important? Because if you know that trials and difficulties have a purpose in your life, then you can look to them from a different perspective.
Brother James is saying, â€œWhenever negative things appear in your life, look at them from a different perspective. See whether God is shaping you or teaching you, teaching us as community, as a family.
- The Greek word for trials is pierasmos,
Which means to test something, a trial of something, a trial of man's fidelity, integrity, virtue.
It literally means a situation, a struggle, an adversity that will reveal one's true character. It's almost like how a stress test can reveal the state of your heart. We have a stress test to know how our heart is working.
-Abraham was tested when he was asked to sacrifice his son.
-Moses was tested many times when he was leading the Israelites to the Promised Land. The Israelites were tested in the desert.
-The gardener will prune the vine (John 15:1-2)
-The wise parents will discipline their child (Heb 12:7-9)
-Gold will be purified by fire (1 Peter 1:6-7)
â€œPruning, disciplining, passing through the fireâ€ Those words are not very pleasant words. They are there to teach us to have a stronger faith in God.
What can we learn from this?
1. Trials help us trust God
We need to understand that God is not testing our courage; He knows we will fail. This is not like a boxing match when Ali Clay is knocking out at the first round of the match. No way, we will fail, no doubt. God knows how fragile is the â€œmacho â€“manâ€ who thinks he can handle anything. God is testing our ability to accept these trials so our FAITH will be stronger. We learn to trust Him.
Consider Jobâ€™s trials. He lost everything, his family, his possessions, his health. His friends said it was his fault; God was punishing him. His wife said, â€œGod is the problem, curse God.â€ Yet in all these Job struggled and although he did not find answers for many his questions, yet he refused to surrender to hopelessness and despair. He stayed firm in his faith. His faith was stronger, because he learned to trust God.
-When trials and tests come, (they will come definitely) we should face them and not move away from them. We should move towards them. Again, this has nothing to do with our human strength, (I can do it). This is submission to God and allowing Him to shape us. If we avoid them, we are missing an excellent opportunity of growth.
2. They reveal my real character
How do you measure a machine if it is durable? You put it under pressure.
for you know thatÂ the testing of your faithÂ produces steadfastness. (James 1:3)
The Greek word is hupomone (remain under.) â€œHupomone is not simply the ability to bear things; it is ability to turn them to greatness and to glory,â€ says William Barclay. â€œHupomone is the quality which makes a man able, not simply to suffer things, but to vanquish (conquer) them.â€ It is the ability to continue, survive under pressure.
It comes from the words remain and under. Pastor Chip Ingram gives example of the weight- lifter who keeps lifting under pressure. The pressure remains but his muscles become stronger.
Illustration: â€œThe Kingâ€™s Speechâ€ is a very good movie I recommend you to see. Perseverance was an important word for King George (Junior). He used to stammer and that was a tremendous obstacle for a king. He became king in a tough time during WWII. Along with his perseverance, his wife and teacher helped him tremendously to speak better. His first speech played a crucial role at the time of war in unifying England in the face of Germany.
Paul Tillich says, â€œsuffering takes people beneath the busyness of life and reminds them they are not who they thought they were.â€
You know there is joy in knowing who you are and you can do with the help of God. Oh yes, I know what I am saying. I experienced myself in my life many times.
3. We become mature (perfect) and complete, and we learn to face the next trial.
And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may beÂ perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:4 ESV)
Mature, complete, perfect is a word used for sacrificial animals. One had to bring a perfect animal to God; it should have been a fitting offering for God.
In Genesis we read that God created us perfect, to worship Him. But we sinned and fell from that image. In the OT people brought â€œperfectâ€ animals to make sacrifices to the Lord.
Jesus became the new perfect sacrifice. He was the example of completeness and perfectness in his life. He became the perfect sacrifice. Trials and tests can assist us become Christ-like persons, back in the form of our original creation. It is a process of transformation and starts here in this imperfect world.
It does not say our marriage becomes perfect; our jobs becomes perfect; our home becomes perfect...no. We become perfect. Our character is shaped and become Christ-centered.
God is not interested in shaping your circumstances; God is interested in shaping your character.
Dallas Willard says, "The main thing God gets out of your life is not the achievements you accomplish. It's the person you become."1
I have used this illustration before, Coach Tom Landry said: â€œI make you do what you do not want to do, in order to make you become what you want to be.â€
And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may beÂ perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:4 ESV)
Brother James is inviting us this morning to consider it all joy when we face those trials. It is not easy, but it is possible with help of God. Our lifestyle matters. We do face those trials and how we face them is expressed in our daily life.
Let us accept with joy all our trials because God is working in our lives even we donâ€™t realize it. It will ultimately be for our good. That is joy. But let us not put a fake smile on our face. When we are hurting, we are hurting. I can never forget what Sevan said after having babies; the labor is painful and not fun. But once they were born, the joy was so big that she forgot all about the pain of labor.
May God comfort you today. May God strengthen you today.
Psalm 92:1-4; 12-15
The title of Time Magazineâ€™s May 20, 2013 cover story was â€œThe ME ME ME Generation -- Millennials are lazy, entitled narcissists who still live with their parents -- why theyâ€™ll save us all.â€
The Millennial generation was born 1980-2000. They are the children of baby boomers, also known as the ME generation, who then produced the ME ME ME generation.
-In the 1950â€™s, families displayed a wedding photo, a school photo or family reunion photo in their homes. Todayâ€™s family displays 150 pictures of themselves and their pets.
-Millennials report their daily activities on social media letting all their friends know what theyâ€™ve just had for dinner, what theyâ€™ve just experienced. (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube...)
-This generation has less civic engagement and lower political participation than any generation before.
-They expect the whole world to affirm that they are great! They are narcissistic and have a strong sense of entitlement.
Yet, the author indicates this generation has wonderful qualities as well.
-The Internet has given everyone equal opportunities to access information that once belonged mostly to the wealthy.
-Millennials do not resent authority.
-Millennials could bring huge positive change. They find new and better ways of doing things. They are creative and never say, â€œWe have always done it this way.â€
-They are the â€œWhy not? Generationâ€. They are earnest and optimistic. They are cool and reserved, not at all passionate. They love their phones but hate talking on them!
We, as a church, need to understand this generation and learn how to reach out to them. Remember, there is no perfect society. We all need God. Therefore, let us go back thousands of years back and see how Solomon dealt with the youth of his time.
Solomon has some words for the youth as well.
1. Rejoice (Armenian sermon), yetâ€¦
2. Watch what you Sow
But know that for all these thingsÂ God will bring you into judgment.Â (Ecc 11:9b ESV)
â€œYou reap what you sowâ€ is the old saying. (In[ or xanys za3n gu hn2ys)
â€œDo not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.â€ (Galatians 6:7 ESV)
â€œThose who plant injustice will harvest disaster,â€ says King Solomon (Proverbs 22:8 NLT).
â€œYou have planted wickedness, you have reaped evil,â€ says the prophet (Hosea 10:13 NIV).
The Bible stresses the wisdom of examining what we are doing with our lives. As youth, we are commanded to enjoy life, enjoy youth, and enjoy the moments God gave us. Life tends to become harder and heavier. However, Solomon also warns the youth about the danger of sowing wrong seeds.
â€œSow joyfully, but sow healthy seeds and not wild oaths. Youth is no excuse for exploits that donâ€™t honor Him.â€ (David Jeremiah)
I am thankful that my parents and advisers helped me in my youth to be joyful and yet cautious with my desires. Godâ€™s Word and the church youth (C.E. in Aleppo) were helpful to keep me in alignment with God.
One way to stay away from evil was to spend time with the youth at the church. Singing, writing new songs, translating songs, cycling together, caroling, singing in choir, going to KCHAG, volunteering at the church camps.
3. Remember Your Creator
â€œRemember also your Creator inÂ the days of your youth, beforeÂ the evil days come and the years draw near of whichÂ you will say, â€œI have no pleasure in themâ€;Â beforeÂ the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened and the clouds return after the rain,â€Â (Eccl 12:1-2)
â€œRemember your Creatorâ€ is great advice. It gives us the right perspective. Remember who you are. God is your Creator, and you are His creature. He made you; He made you wonderfully; He designed you in His image.
David is describing how God made him;
For youÂ formed my inward parts;
youÂ knitted me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well. (Psalm 139:13-14 ESV)
Remember that God loves you, and made you special. Each of us is special.
Illustration: One of my joys this year was during graduation time. One of my daughterâ€™s former students who had a tough time with life, was depressed and did not see meaning in life, was rescued and eventually found meaning in life. He graduated this year from High School. His mother was in our home thinking Nanor and us for showing love and caring for her child. I pray that this young man will go further in his life finding meaning in remembering God. Having faith in God will help him grow in all aspects of life.
4. Words also for elderly, â€œnever late to bear fruitâ€¦â€
My sermon title is â€œWisdom for Everyone from 9 to 99.â€
God does not give up from any age group. So let me focus also on the seniors of the church.
Psalm 92 says:
The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.Â They are planted in the house of theÂ Lord; they flourish inÂ the courts of our God. They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green,Â to declare that theÂ LordÂ is upright; he is myÂ rock, and there isÂ no unrighteousness in him. (Psalm 92:12-15 ESV)
The palm trees, the cedars of Lebanon, all those metaphors indicate growth, and aging. These trees take a long time to grow, yet they still bear fruit in old age.
Lucy Janjigian is in her 80s, and left for Armenia to serve with Nanorâ€™s mission. I asked her if she was sure to go to those remote areas to serve through tough roads and primitive places to lodge. She looked to my eyes and said, â€œWhy not, whatâ€™s wrong with me?â€
Elo Aslanian teaches the piano and she is 92. I ask her why? She loves to teach and help anyone. She wants to be fruitful.
Lord, I like to have the same attitude when I become a senior citizen.
They still bear fruit in old ageâ€¦
For all our days pass away under your wrath;
Â Â Â Â we bring our years to an end like a sigh.
10Â The years of our life are seventy,
Â Â Â Â or even by reason of strength eighty;
So teach us to number our days
Â Â Â Â that we may get a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:9,10,12 ESV)
So my dear senior citizens, donâ€™t give up from bearing fruit. Donâ€™t give up from life. Donâ€™t give up from learning wisdom from God. Donâ€™t give up from the youth. There is richness in serving the Lord together 9-99.
5. Do Not Postpone
â€œRemember NOW your Creator in the days of your youth.â€ (Eccl 12;1) Some translations add the word NOW. Why postpone?
â€œToday, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.â€ (Hebrews 4:7)
A parent told me once that he does not want to bring his children to Sunday school, so one day when they grow up, they decide if they want to follow Christ or not to follow him. He does not want to impose his â€œreligiousâ€ ideas on them.
I think that child is being taught other â€˜godsâ€™ in her life. If that child is exposed to other â€˜godsâ€™, why not also let us give a chance to the God of our creation, God the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Why not?
All ages, 9-99 do not postpone your relationship with God.
Illustration: I remembered three young people (students of Anjar School in Lebanon in 1990s) came and knocked my door and asked if we would guide them to accept Jesus Christ as their Savior. I am glad that they did and they accepted Jesus as their Savior. Two of them died very young. One with a heart attack (Mher Ashkarian) and the other of brain tumor (Nelly Sekaian). TODAY and not tomorrowâ€¦.
Solomon also challenges the parents and the youth as well. Life will pass quickly, do not waste any minute. Thank God and remember who He is in your life.
2. Watch what you Sow
3. Remember Your Creator
4. Words also for elderly, â€œnever late to bear fruitâ€¦â€
5. Do not Postpone
God, I want Your Word to be deeply implanted in me so that I not only know the truth, but also express it in the way I live. â€¦..
Poetry and song By David Bailey
Now that I look back, I find it funny that when I was young my parents thought my generation was shallow, spoiled, and not ready to face lifeâ€™s challenges. Now my generation tends to think exactly the same thing about the next generation!
â€œThe young people of today are utterly dissolute and disorderly.â€ (Martin Luther)
â€œThe youth are rebellious, pleasure-seeking, and irresponsible.â€ (Plato)
â€œThe youth have no respect for their elders; children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority. They show disrespect for elders and love chatter.â€ (Socrates)
â€œWe live in a decadent age. Young people no longer respect their parents. They are rude and impatientâ€¦â€ (Carved in an Egyptian tomb three thousand years ago) 1
The book of Ecclesiastes says, there is nothing new under the sun (1:9). When you complain about the youth, do you remember yourself as a youth? Young people, if you think the elderly are too old, too outdated or slow? Just remember one day you will be like them.
The beauty of the Word of God is that God speaks to all generations.
Abraham was an aged person when God used him to learn to become a father for Isaac and a father for all nations. Noahâ€™s life is another example of how God worked with him in the different stages of his life. Joseph was the spoiled kid, the dreamer, who became the ruler of Egypt. Yet God did not give up from teaching Joseph even when he aged. David the young shepherd, who had a heart after Godâ€™s own heart, became the king of Israel; Shadrach,Â Meshach, andÂ Abednego, three young courageous and faithful servants of God who dared any god and king; Mary the teenager who gave birth to Jesus.
Today is graduation Sunday. My sermon is addressed to both the youth and older people of our big CACC family.
First, to the youth.
â€œRejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart andÂ the sight of your eyes.â€ (11:9a)
Do you see how many times Solomon tells the youth to learn to rejoice and enjoy life? These days will never come back. Enjoy the day!
We always complain about our age. As kids, we want to become adults. As we grow older, we look back and want to be young again. Somehow we do not know how to enjoy each day that is given to us. Each day is precious. Each minute is a gift from God.
Dr. Benjamin Elijah, a Christian educator, writes about the value of a minute:
Life is just a minute â€“ only sixty seconds in it.
Forced upon you â€“ canâ€™t refuse it.
Didnâ€™t seek itâ€”didnâ€™t choose it.
But itâ€™s up to you to use it.
You must suffer if you lose it.
Give an account if you abuse it.
Just a tiny, little minute,
But eternity is in it!
This is the day that the Lord has made. Let me learn, O Lord, to rejoice in it. We often have difficulty rejoicing. Either we are busy, worried, or not content with the day that is given to us.
We will continue in English.
1. David Jeremiah, Searching For Heaven on Earth p 295
The father of four children won a toy at a raffle. He called his kids together to ask which of them should have the present. "Who is the most obedient?" he asked. "Who never talks back to mother? Who does everything she says?" Four small voices answered in unison. "Okay, dad, you get the toy."
In my Lebanese ID card, my name appears as: Nerses, the son of Sarkis, my fatherâ€™s name, and then my last name.
We all are sons and daughters of somebody, our father. Today is Fatherâ€™s Day, when we are honoring our fathers. We are thankful to our heavenly Father who provided for us earthly fathers. I was happy to hear testimonies about the fathers today. Thank you all. Thank you for telling us how your fathers influenced your identity.
Tell me who is your God, and I tell you who you are. Indeed, the way we see God, the way we understand who God is, shapes our identity.
In his book, The Knowledge of the Holy, W. A. Tozer talks about the attributes of God. He says:
â€œWhat comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.â€
He continues saying, â€œManâ€™s spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God. Worship is pure or base as the worshipper entertains high or low thoughts of God.â€Â
Biblically, we find verses that indicate the same concept. Let me quote again from Matthew 5.
Love your enemies andÂ pray for those who persecute you,Â so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:44-45 ESV)
To be sons of your father means in the context to be like him. It is in Godâ€™s nature to bring reconciliation. We are called His sons, and daughtersâ€¦. To be like Him means being instruments to help people reconcile.
Like father, like sonâ€¦
It is a daily challenge for each of us to learn about God, and to worship Him and to be like Him.
This is Fatherâ€™s Day. Let me think. I am a father, I had a biological father who passed away many years ago, but most importantly I have a heavenly Father who is my daddy, my creator, my redeemer, my protector, my shield, my father. He calls me my child. I am His child. And since I am His child, I am called to be like HIM.
Illustration: When I send my children to a place, like a party or a trip, I say: â€œSon, daughter, now remember you are my son and my daughterâ€¦ you represent your mother and father wherever you goâ€¦. You are my childâ€¦â€
So this is beautiful. God is our Father and I am His child. I am called to be like Him. We are ambassadors of Christ. We represent â€œGodâ€ in our identity, in our character and in our conduct.
-Question, can I be like God?
-What are the attributes of God?
all-knowing, eternal, faithful, good, gracious, holy, immanent, infinite, just, loving, merciful, omnipotent, omnipresent, righteous, self-existent, self-sufficient, sovereign, transcendent, triune, unchanging, wise. (21)
These are the attributes of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
Some of those attributes are not transferrable. They belong only to God.
all-knowing, eternal, immanent, infinite, omnipotent, omnipresent, self-existent, self-sufficient, sovereign, transcendent, triune, unchanging.
Yet, like Father, like Son, there are many attributes that we may have and may look more LIKE HIM.
faithful, good, gracious, holy, just, loving, merciful, righteous, wise
How do we have those attributes in us?
Accepting Jesus in our lives, living IN HIM, abiding IN HIM is my simple yet deep answer.
â€œI and the Father are one.â€( John 10:30 ESV)
Paul says about Jesus:
â€œHe is the image ofÂ the invisible God.â€ (Col 1:15 ESV)
â€œTruly, truly, I say to you,Â the SonÂ can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.Â (John 5:19 ESV)
Having Jesus in us, who transforms our lives, will produce in us those transferable attributes of God. We will be more like HIM.
Paul says: â€œuntil we all attain toÂ the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God,Â to mature manhood,Â to the measure of the stature ofÂ the fullness of Christ.â€ (Eph 4:13 ESV)
This process is called sanctification.
Let me give a good example from the bible, the Gracious Father (the prodigal son)
I preached often the parable of the Prodigal Son. How about today? Let us look at this parable from the perspective of father-son relationship.
Let us examine the father, as God the Father.
Question to congregation:
What kind of attributes one can find which are similar to Godâ€™s attribute?
faithful, good, gracious, holy, just, loving, merciful, righteous, wise
-He was faithful. His heart was broken from his sonâ€™s disobedience. Yet, father stayed faithful to his son. He did not delete his son from his life. He waited and watched from the window expecting one day his son would be back.
-He was a good, gracious and a merciful father.
Mercy means not giving someone what he deserves.
Grace means giving someone what he does not deserve.
-Loveâ€¦. what other words one can find in this storyâ€¦? Love. When he saw his son coming home far away, the father took the humiliation by running (Fathers donâ€™t run in the Middle East), showing his legs (that is a taboo), booing from the crowdâ€¦ He took all this humiliation because he saw his son coming home. Loveâ€¦ fatherly loveâ€¦ so much that he wanted to throw a big partyâ€¦
-He was wise. Wise to explain to the older son why he did what he did, and extended his love towards him as well.
What does our heavenly Father say to us through Jesus?
I love you (put your name) and even though you have rebelled (like the prodigal son), and avoided me, I will always take you back. (repentance)
God loves us. He is our Father, and he wants us to learn from Him how to love our children.
Father God said about Jesus: this is my beloved son whom I chose. God the Father was pleased with His Son.
Are you pleased with your son/daughter? Do you tell him/her you love him/her. Do you express your love towards him/her? Is your child the beloved daughter and son, and you are proud of them?
Children, I have words for youâ€¦obedience.
Jesus said, it we love him we will keep his commandments. Obedience, this is a word that has vanished in our vocabulary. Where do you see our children learn obedience?
I learn from Jesus how he obeyed his Father. How about us, you and me? Can we learn obedience?
Like Father, like sonâ€¦
Pray that every day we will become like Jesus, like Father, like Son.
our faces shining with the brightness of his face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him. 2 Cor 3:18 MSG
NT Wright says: â€œJesus offers a new sort of justice, a creative, healing, restorative justice.â€ The old law was helpful to prevent the escalation of revenge. Is it enough to stop the escalation of revenge? When it comes to retribution, the society needs healing and a different way of thinking. Wright adds: â€œJesus goes one better still. Better to have no vengeance at all, but rather a creative way forward, reflecting the astonishingly patient love of God himself.â€
From the daily life of the people, Jesus gives four examples from which I will take two.
-Slapping the face: Most people are right handed. So when one slaps, it meant hitting with the back of the right hand. This is more than violence; it is an insult. This does not mean you should not defend yourself from a harmful person. No, this is putting you down.
-Forcing someone to go one mile: Those days the Roman soldiers had the right to ask anyone on the road to carry their equipment for a mile. If it is needed, Jesus said, go a second mile. Why?
Do you know what Jesus is teaching? Get rid of your pride and put your rights away and share the grace of God with people.
NT Wright says â€œCopy your generous God! Go a second mile, and astonish the soldier (and perhaps alarm him â€“ what I his commanding officer found out?) with the news that there is a different way to be human, a way which does not plot revenge.â€1
How can we retrain ourselves from getting even, and always thinking about our â€œrightsâ€ and forgetting the bigger picture?
In the beatitudes we spoke about Meekness. â€œBlessed are the meek.â€ The sermon title was the Power of the Meekness. Aristotle saw it as the happy medium between too much and too little anger. William Barclay, â€œBlessed is the person who is always angry at the right time and never angry at the wrong time.â€2
In Greek language, Praus, meaning meek, is â€œthe regular word for an animal which has been domesticated.â€3
Please notice: the meek person is not a doormat, or someone who allows others to walk all over them. NO, NO, NO.
Meekness is a powerful behavior. It is the choice of being restrained, to putting your anger in control. I will say it is a God-controlled personality.
Illustration: I had two important conversations this week with people who learned to restrain themselves and seek peace.
One of them was a pastor from France having problems with another younger pastor who treated him very badly. For a more than year the relationship between those pastors was frozen. The older pastor was invited to a pastoral retreat where the theme was about how to have better relationship with other pastors, especially with the ones you donâ€™t like. Indeed, God broke the pride of this older pastor. He became poor in spirit, desperately seeking Godâ€™s love to extend his hand to this young pastor. The result was amazing. They saw each other, and to make the long story short, there is discussion between them.
The other was a young person who was doing some service at the church. She was criticized by an older woman who thought the young personâ€™s service was with the wrong motivation. This older woman gossiped and passed some wrong information about this young lady. The young lady opened her heart to me and shared that she was deeply hurt. We prayed and I advised her to ignore the person. She did not ignore her though. She made an appointment with her and spent two hours having some difficult conversations. She was free after two hours. Her hurt about the gossip was replaced by mercy and understanding the pain of the other people. Do you know who speaks badly about others? The ones who are hurting and they have not dealt with their pain and hurt. Revenge will not work at all.
In the matter of retribution, anger has a major role. If we do not restrain ourselves nothing can change in our relationships.
Again those examples of loving the neighbor, the â€œother,â€ the one who is not like us, the Samaritan who helped the enemy on the road;
Jesus is asking us to withhold ourselves when we face the enemy and learn to find a way to make peace, if possible.
Another beatitude I like to remind you: Blessed are the peacemakers
Love your enemies andÂ pray for those who persecute you,Â so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.
To be sons of your father means in the context to be like him. It is in Godâ€™s nature to bring reconciliation. We are called his sons, and daughtersâ€¦.
Paul, who faced many hardships in his ministry, after many years writes those words:
Repay no one evil for evil, butÂ give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.Â Â If possible, so far as it depends on you,Â live peaceably with all.Â Â Beloved,Â never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written,Â â€œVengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.â€Â Â To the contrary,Â â€œif your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.â€Â Â Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:17-21)
Paul is teaching us the same truth as Jesus did. Wait for the Lord. Oh yes, wait for the LORD. Patience is a virtue. Wait for the Lord. Yet, in your waiting to not sit bitter and complaining all the time. There is an active part of doing good for others. It is a biblical command.
Summary and Application:
So, how do we do this? These are the teachings of Jesus to live right side up in an upside down world. These are the teachings that Jesus gave so our righteousness will exceed that of the Pharisees. This righteousness is the matter of the heart and not external laws and regulations. It is not performance; it is heart transformation. Godâ€™s righteousness can be archived only by Christâ€™s being with us, in us. Emmanuel
â€œJesus is not giving us advice in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus is the GOOD NEWS. Jesus did it all himself and opened up the new way of being human so that all who follow him can discover itâ€¦. The Sermon on the Mount isnâ€™t just about us. If it was, we might admire it as a fine bit of idealism, but weâ€™d then return to our normal lives. Itâ€™s about Jesus himself. This was the blueprint for his own life. He asks nothing of his followers that he hasnâ€™t faced himself.â€4
Therefore my challenge to you again: we need Jesus. We cannot do it ourselves. Performance Christianity is checking the boxes of the â€œrightâ€ things one can doâ€¦ it does not work. If you keep doing â€œperformanceâ€ church life, eventually you will be extremely tired, eventually bitter, and a self-righteous person looking down on the others.
Ask yourself, â€œIf I lived those days (Jesusâ€™ days) I wonder which group I will be indentified with. We tend to read the Word of God like a disciple of Christ. Try to read the Word of God like a Pharisee.â€ (Chip Ingram)
The beatitudes are not things you do so that you can become a â€œhappyâ€ person. They are not a list of checks you accomplish. They are not teachings about behaving properly. No, these teachings are an invitation to become members in the Kingdom of God. They start from accepting how much one needs Jesus as Savior, King, Lord, guide, teacher, healer, comforter, the King of this new kingdom, the new creation. These are teachings of seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness and all things will come after thatâ€¦all things.
1 N.T. Wright Matthew for Everyone P 52
2. William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible, Matthew P 96
In our journey in the Sermon on the Mount, we continue the teachings of Jesus concerning relationships. Jesus will finish this section with Retribution (38-42) and Enmities (43-48). In other words, it is about how to restrain ourselves from revenge and how to care and love not just our brother or neighbor, but also our enemies.
Is it possible to do these things? Who can do this? To read these teachings of Jesus without understanding the Sermon on the Mount will be unfair. This sermon starts with verse 3: Blessed are the poor in the Spirit. There is no other way to approach these teachings of Jesus. One has to be desperately seeking God, desperately poor and seeking God to be filled.
Jesus said: Truly I say to you, whoever does notÂ receiveÂ the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it at all (Mark 10:15 ESV). How do we approach God? Like a child who desperately needs help.
Last week I also explained that all marriages are fragile, all relationships are fragile. We need Jesusâ€™ love to maintain our healthy relationship. Be careful how you approach God. It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.(Mark 2:17 ESV). We receive Jesus and his kingdom by admitting that we are sick and in need of a spiritual physicianâ€”namely, Jesus.
We have to come like that sinful woman who came to Jesus to be healed. At the end of the story Jesus says: â€œYour sins are forgiven.â€Â ...Â â€œYour faith has saved you;Â go in peace.â€ (Luke 7:48-50 ESV)
It is not performance, it heart transformation. â€œThis is how the Christian life starts. It doesn't start by measuring up. It starts by realizing that we don't measure up.â€ (John Piper)1
Thus we cannot read todayâ€™s passage and understand how we can restrain ourselves when someone is retaliating. How can we love someone who is not lovable, an enemy, or someone who is persecuting us? If we do not look at the entire Sermon on the Mount, those verses alone are not doable and even sound crazy.
In the book of Deuteronomy, we find laws addressed to Judges to govern the Israelites. Retribution had two purposes. First, it laid the foundation of justice in the court by giving the correct punishment for a deserved crime. Second, it prevented people from taking personal revenge that would eventually cause tribal wars. People were prohibited to take the law into their own hand, as it used to be in the Old West.
The Scribes and Pharisees loved to play with the Old Testament laws. They stretched this principle of fair retribution from the courthouse into their daily matter. They started justifying personal revenge, even though the law was created to prevent it.
You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, butÂ you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord. (Leviticus 19:18 ESV)
Did Pharisees ignore some of those laws of the Old Testament? One thing I know, Jesus is teaching a whole new way of thinking and living.
To be continued in English.
1 John Piper, But I say to You Love Your enemies Part 2
Our topic is the Sermon on the Mount, the revolutionary teachings of Jesus about
â€œliving right side up in an upside down world.â€ Jesus is intersected in heart transformation. Who can do it? Only Jesus.
Today is Pentecost Sunday when the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples. Jesus said:
â€œBut you will receiveÂ powerÂ when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, andÂ you will beÂ my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea andÂ Samaria, andÂ to the end of the earth.â€Â (Acts 1:8 ESV)
I have to highlight an observation. The Spirit came on a group of people who were gathered in unity. WhenÂ the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one placeâ€¦(Acts 2:1). Gathering in one place is so important for the church life. We gather to worship, pray, listen to the Word, serve, care, love, and have fellowship.
Therefore, yes we did receive the Holy Spirit. We do continue to be Christâ€™s witnesses from Jerusalem to all over the world. We are called to be salt and light in this world. The Sermon on the Mount examines who we are, whom we serve, and how can we continue living in the righteousness (the right ways) that Jesus is teaching.
The challenge started with the Beatitudes, eight of them, then the call of being salt and light, then living in genuine relationships with God and each other.
Righteousness demonstrated in our relationships (not in our performance) (21-48). Murder (21-26); Adultery (27-30); Divorce (31-32); Oaths (33-37); Retribution (38-42); Enmities (43-48).We covered the first two: Murder and Adultery; today Iâ€™ll start with divorce.
No one enters into the marriage covenant with the intention of divorce. Divorce is never planned in advance. I stress this point in my premarital counseling. All marriages are fragile. All marriages need to be sustained with the love of Christ every day. In fact, all relationships, husband and wife, parents and children, work place, neighbors, church communityâ€¦ need Christâ€™s love. Last week my sermon title was â€œSeeing Godâ€™s Image in the other.â€ How come your best friend, your love, your sweetheart becomes the â€œenemyâ€? How sad is to see that divorce continues to be a problem in society. It was then and it is today.
In the 1st Century, divorce and remarriage were widely accepted and easily done. The husband would give the wife a certificate of divorce and send her away. Jesus was faced with this question in other occasions also. He never encouraged easy divorce. He made one thing clear that marriage is serious and should last. â€œâ€˜Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, andÂ the two shall become one fleshâ€™Â So they are no longer two but one flesh.Â What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.â€ (Matthew 19:5-6 ESV)
I will not go into the details when someone is allowed to divorce. That debate could become an endless argument. Divorce is bad. It hurts the unity of the body, the purpose of marriage. It also hurts the children; it leaves scars on the family members. I understand that there are situations of adultery and abuse where divorce is justifiable, but even then, divorce leaves its marks.
In Matthew 19, the Pharisees come to Jesus and test him again asking him if divorce was allowed. Do you see what is going on? People are concerned about external laws. Jesus said: â€œYou blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.â€ (Matthew 23:26 ESV) The issue is not when it is permissible or not; the issue is longing to God to sanctify our relationships daily. Where is your heart? How do you deal with frictions in your relationships? How soon you cross out people and give up from people?
Can we do this without Christ? Can we do this without receiving the Holy Spirit?
To be continued in English.
Where is your heart? How do you deal with frictions in your relationships? How soon do you cross out people and give up from them?
I approach this topic with caution and understanding. Because, for one thing, divorce is a controversial and complex matter, and people have differences in their interpretation of Jesus' words. I will not go into the debate of opinions. I will stress a point that Jesus is making: You need me to live a righteous life.
John Piper says:
"Jesus is not saying: I have an impossible standard of righteousness that you can never meet, and so stop trying to meet it, and trust in my righteousness. That's not what he is saying. He is saying, "If you will come to me, and trust in me, and receive the power of the kingdom, and be cleansed on the inside by the forgiveness and love of God that I offer, and bank your hope on all my promises, and let my ransoming death cover all your failures and imperfections, then you WILL be able to live this way (not perfectly, but powerfully), and your life will be the light of the world that proves you are the children of God."1
Can I keep on loving people? Can we continue living in peace with the â€œotherâ€; it may be my best friend, my coworker, my family memberâ€¦
Right after the divorce issue, Jesus brings another topic: oaths, keeping a word, saying the truth. N.T. Wright finds a relationship between the three issues of adultery (lust), divorce, and oaths that come back to back in the passage.
â€œDivorce comes between two issues, both of which are in some ways more basic. It may be stating the obvious to point out that if people knew how to control their bodily lusts on the one hand (27-30), and were committed to complete integrity and truth-telling on the other (33-37), there would be fewer, if any, divorces. Divorce normally happens when lust and lies have been allowed to grow up like weeds and choke the fragile and beautiful plant of marriage.â€2
Let me move to the next issue: lies, not telling the truth, manipulation of reality. People make oaths because cannot trust each otherâ€™s word.
In the OT, here are some verses about the issue of oath:
You shall not swear by my name falsely, and so profane the name of your God: I am theÂ Lord. (Lev 19:12 ESV).
If a man vows a vow to theÂ Lord, orÂ swears an oath to bind himself by a pledge, he shall not break his word. (Num 30: 2 ESV).
If you make a vow to theÂ LordÂ your God, you shall not delay fulfilling it, for theÂ LordÂ your God will surely require it of you. (Deut 23:21ESV).
Those verses are expressing an important point: they prohibit false oaths and perjury and teach that keeping an oath is required.
The Pharisees played games with these laws and found ways to justify implementing or not implementing certain laws. They developed rules for the making of vows. They listed which formulas were permissible. They added that only those formulas which included Godâ€™s name made the vow mandatory.
â€œWoe toÂ you,Â blind guides, who say,Â â€˜If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.â€™Â 17Â You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold orÂ the temple that has made the gold sacred?Â 18Â And you say, â€˜If anyone swears by the altar, it is nothing, but if anyone swears byÂ the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.â€™Â 19Â You blind men! For which is greater, the gift orÂ the altar that makes the gift sacred?Â 20Â So whoever swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it.21Â And whoever swears by the temple swears by it and byÂ him who dwells in it.Â 22Â And whoever swears byÂ heaven swears byÂ the throne of God and byÂ him who sits upon it. (Matthew 23:16-22 ESV)
Do you know who swears a lot? Liars and untruthful people.
What is Jesus seeking in this issue? Truth. Let your Yes be a Yes and your No a No. The TRUTH. Christians should say what they mean and mean what they say. It is an issue of integrity.
Integrity in marriage, to be faithful.
Integrity in your relationships, business, friendship, community,
Integrity in your church life.
Integrity when you present your taxes.
Integrity in the court when you witness.
You can add moreâ€¦
Saying the truth is right and liberating.
The best way for me to tell the truth is to embrace the real truth, Jesus Christ. He is the Truth and the Way. He teaches me to be truthful. His life and his presence add in my life what it means to be truthful, and how to live a life of truth and not falsehood.
Today we will approach the Table of the Lord, the Table of Thanksgiving, the Table of Truth, the Table of Love and Relationships.
I want you to take a moment and bring your life in front of this Table.
John writes about Jesus:
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14 ESV)
Jesus became flesh, and dwelt among us, and he is full of grace and truth.
Jesus is not here to condemn you. He is here to heal you.
In the days before His crucifixion, there was argument between the disciples. Who will be sitting next to Jesus in heaven? Who will sit on his right side? Who is the greatest? Jesus did not rebuke them. Instead, he girded himself with a towel and washed their feet, including Judahâ€™s.
He who was the greatest of all became the servant of all. He was full of Grace and Truth. What a truth and Grace!
I donâ€™t know about you, I need Jesus. I need the Holy Spirit this morning to fill me up with GRACE and Truth.
In this way I can bring my desires, my marriage, my relationships, my words, my promises, and ask God to help me, and cleanse me and fill me with His grace and truth. Everything Jesus did was truthful and gracious.
Come to the table. Come poor in spirit.
â€œIt is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners." (Mark 2:17 ESV)
We enter the kingdom poor in spirit, helpless as a child, sick and in need of a spiritual physician. Come to the Table in repentance and adoration.
Just I want to bring back those words:
It is not performance, it is heart transformation.
1 John Piper, But I Say to You, Love Your Enemies, PartÂ 1
2 N.T. Wright Matthew for Everyone, p 47
Last Sunday we took the first one, Murder. Killing is a terrible act of breaking the law of God. Just last week, innocent 21 kids who attended a concert in Manchester were killed by a lunatic fanatic young man who wanted to kill as many infidels as possible.
Jesus is against this kind of barbaric acts. Yet, Jesus also is warning them (and us today) about other kinds of killings such as: words, naming people, heart issues, anger, and broken relationships.
What is the use of being religious, keeping the appearance of a â€œrighteousâ€ person, yet bring rotten inside? What is the use of being a â€œprofessional Christianâ€, who keeps â€œperforming and performingâ€, yet ignoring relationships and holding hatred and grudge in the heart?
-The Phariseesâ€™ focus is external, Jesusâ€™ focus is internal
-The Phariseesâ€™ focus is on â€œdoingsâ€, Jesusâ€™ focus starts from â€œbeing, then doingâ€
-It is Be-attitude and not do-attitude.
-The Phariseesâ€™ focus is on duty, duty, duty; Jesusâ€™ focus is on devotion, commitment.
-The Phariseesâ€™ focus is on guilt; Jesusâ€™ focus is on grace and mercy.
-The Phariseesâ€™ focus is on the letter of the law; Jesus focuâ€™s is on the spirit of the law. The letter kills the spirit gives life.
-The Phariseesâ€™ focus is on the head; Jesus focus is on the heart.
It is a HEART issue. God looks inside you, to your heart. How is your heart this morning?
Illustration: I donâ€™t know about you, people warned me about the process of buying a car. When you enter a car dealership, the salespeople so their best to keep you inside. They do everything to sell you that car that same day. I wonder when a car sales representative sees a person entering the store, I wonder what do they see, a $ dollar sign, or a person?
Today my sermon title is: Do you see Godâ€™s image in the other person?
Murder, Adultery, Divorceâ€¦ in those acts, we find broken relationship. In those acts, the â€œotherâ€ stops being a human, a person who is created in the image of God. Today Iâ€™ll take Adultery.
Read the passage. Matthew 5:27-30
You have heard that it was said,Â â€˜You shall not commit adultery.â€™28Â But I say to you thatÂ everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:27-28ESV)
In my words: â€œStop talking about laws of adultery, when you guys are having sexual affairs in your head every dayâ€¦â€
You have heardâ€¦ I tell youâ€¦
You are so much concerned with the outside, I am interested in the inside of your head and heartâ€¦
For a few minutes letâ€™s talk about the drastic consequences Jesus mentioned. Jesus gave several drastic measures: If your eye is causing you to sin, tear it out and throw it away! If your hand is causing you to sin, and cut it off and throw it away! â€¦. Similarly, in last Sundaysâ€™ passage, if your brother has something against you leave your gift offering in the temple, run out make peace with the person and come back. You know how difficult that was. I mean people came from all over Samaria and Judea, they walked for days, and they bought an animal for sacrifice. Now how should they leave that animal over there, run to their village, make peace with people and come back? That would take daysâ€¦ And today Jesus says, take your eye out if it is bothering youâ€¦ all these metaphors, exaggerated metaphors to convey an important point.
This is serious guys: LISTEN ALL, WATCH out â€¦WARNING. Enough of hypocrisyâ€¦. stopâ€¦ come to God. Bring your lust, your desires to Jesus.
Concerning adultery, Jesus warned the Pharisees: it is not just the act of adultery that is wrong; it is where it all starts, in our heart, mind, and soul
Sexual pleasure is created by God; it is part of our physical nature. In adultery, sex becomes an instrument of fulfilling lust and desires where two people are not committed to each other in marriage. Marriage is a covenant between man and woman. It is commitment to love, respect, serve, care. God is interested in the sanctity of the family. This covenant is sacred. It is established by God, given to us for relationships and enjoyment.
Sexual desires are planted in us; we cannot deny that fact. They are a gift from God to us. What do we do with them?
NT Wright says:
Donâ€™t suppose that Jesus means you must never feel the impulse of lust when you look at someone attractive. That would be impossible, and is not in any case what the words mean. What he commands us to avoid is the gaze, and the lustful imagination, that follow the initial impulse.â€1
Let me ask this question again, â€œWhen we see a person, what do we see? A person created in the image of God, or a person that can satisfy your desires?â€
-Do you use people for yourself?
-How do we get equipped to face those temptations?
Paul warns the Galatians:
But I say,Â walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratifyÂ the desires of the flesh.Â ForÂ the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other,Â to keep you from doing the things you want to do.Â Â But if you areÂ led by the Spirit,Â you are not under the law.Â Â NowÂ the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality,Â idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions,Â divisions,Â envy,Â drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, thatÂ those who doÂ such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.Â (5:16-21ESV)
Garbage in, Garbage out. With what do you fill up your mind?
Illustration: Two monks were walking towards a city. They arrived to a place where there was a river to cross. There was no bridge, so they need to walk across the shallow river. There was a woman waiting and hesitating to enter into the water. She asked for help. One of the monks carried the woman and they all passed the river. The woman thanked the monk she continued her journey. After 30 minutes the other monk who was disturbed by his friendâ€™s act of service said to his friend: â€œHow did you touch that woman and carry her?â€ The monk said: â€œWhat woman? I dropped her 30 minutes ago. Though you did not carry her, I think you are still carrying her in your mind.â€
Jesus knows about our internal struggles. He can help us to sanctify our thoughts, our desires.
In the same passage Paul gives the cure:
Walk in the Spirit. Our heart and mind need daily sanctification. Also, our void can be filled with other desires that help us grow in our walk with the LORD.
ButÂ the fruit of the Spirit isÂ love, joy, peace, patience,Â kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness,Â self-control;Â against such things there is no law.Â Â And those who belong to Christ JesusÂ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (5:22-23ESV)
How can we do this?
We cannot do it alone. Throughout the chapter, Jesus is not just giving moral commands. He is unveiling a whole new way of being a human being. No wonder it looks strange. But Jesus himself pioneered it, and invites us to follow.2
Righteousness demonstrated in our relationships not in our performance.
Invite Jesus into your heart. Examine yourself and see where the Spirit of the Lord should cleanse you.
We are all created in Godâ€™s image.
â€œCreate in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.â€(Psalm 51:10 ESV)
Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousnessâ€¦
The Sermon on the Mount is the essential teachings of Jesus to put first things first. Every person needs to stop and examine himself/herself about this. What is the most important thing that makes you who you are? How do you maintain what you have learned?
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus revealed eight beatitudes: Living right side up in an upside down world; living with the hunger to seek Godâ€™s righteousness and His kingdom. Jesus explained the character of a true Christian. The next few lines put all eight beatitudes in perspective. It all starts with being poor in the spirit. The poor in spirit are the ones who have realized they are no one if they are not part of the Kingdom of Heaven. The poor in spirit are those who say: â€œI need God, I surrenderâ€. Once you are there, you see your sins and the sins of the world around you and you mourn for them and ask for forgiveness; this leads you to be meek, who are the ones who are hungry to be fed by God, to have a right relationship with God and with others. That leads you to learn to be merciful, because Jesus is merciful. How can you be merciful if your heart is closed? Pure in heart leads you to see more than yourself in life. You become a peacemaker, which will lead you to be in trouble. In the end, people will persecute you for obeying God and becoming his child. (Matthew 5:3-12)
Two weeks ago, I continued the teachings of Jesus by talking about salt and light. Our Christian faith is not a secret; we are not secret agents of Christ. We are SENT to the WORLD to make a difference. Salt and Light â€“ Be worthy examples.
The passage that follows speaks about TRUE RELATIONSHIPS, true righteousness.
1. Christ fulfills the Law of Moses (17-20)
2. Righteousness demonstrated in our relationships (not in our performance) (21-48)
Murder (21-26); Adultery (27-30); Divorce (31-32); Oaths (33-37); Retribution (38-42); Enemies (43-48)
1. Christ Fulfills the Law of Moses
â€œDo not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.â€ (Matthew 5:17 ESV)
Do Jesusâ€™ teachings contradict with the Old Testament? Does Jesus disagree with the Old Testament teaching?
I donâ€™t think so. Jesus is talking about the Law (Pentateuch, the first five books of Moses) and the Prophets (the books of the major and minor Prophets and Wisdom literature), which means the entire Old Testament.
How did Jesus deal with the law? Did he obey it or rebel against it? In verses 21-48, Jesus offers six ways that contrast the proper and false interpretations and application of the OT. 1
The ESV Bible commentary says that this section is the relation of The Messianic Kingdom and the Law.Â â€œVerses 17â€“20 explain how Jesus and the kingdom fulfill the law of Moses; this is the key to interpreting the Sermon on the Mount and indeed the whole of Jesusâ€™ ministry. 2
We will continue in English.
1. ESV Study Bible Commentary
Jesusâ€™ intention is not to change or challenge the Old Testament. â€œJesusâ€™ gospel of the kingdom does not replace the OT but rather fulfills it as Jesusâ€™ life and ministry, coupled with his interpretation, complete and clarify Godâ€™s intent and meaning in the entire OT.â€1 Jesus said he came to "fulfill" the Scriptures. The verb means literally "to fill." Rather than contradict the Law, Jesus' life and teachings were an explanation and a filling up of them.2
How did Jesus fulfill the Old Testament?
A. Regarding the prophecies, Jesus fulfilled the prophecies.
B. Regarding the sacrificial system, Jesus himself became the last and only sacrifice.
C. Regarding Wisdom literature, (which drew the characteristics of an individual) Jesus became the example of how one has to live.
2. Righteousness demonstrated in our relationships (not in our performance) (21-48)
Read now the passage Matthew 5:21-26
You have heardâ€¦ I say to youâ€¦
Those sentences will occur often in the coming verses. Jesus does not criticize the Old Testament. The OT remains an authoritative divine testimony and teaching.â€3 â€œJesusâ€™ gospel of the kingdom does not replace the OT but rather fulfills it as Jesusâ€™ life and ministry, coupled with his interpretation, complete and clarify Godâ€™s intent and meaning in the entire OT.â€4
Having said that, Jesus will explain what it means to be righteous. Righteousness is a key word in the Sermon on the Mount. â€œSeek first the kingdom of God and its righteousnessâ€¦â€
For the Israelites, to become righteous was something one had to do. In other words, do â€œthe right things.â€ Jesus said:
For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.â€ (5:20).
How one can have more righteousness than the scribes and the Pharisees? No one can. God grants us righteousness by His Son Jesus Christ.
Jesus is interested in relationships. This means to have the right relationship with God, with ourselves, and with the community (the other).
With those words I move on to the first example Jesus gives concerning how to live in right relationships. How to live a righteous life?
Let us talk about murder. Jesus agrees that killing is against the law, and it is not good to take someoneâ€™s life. Yet, Jesus knew that his audience was obeying the law of not killing someone, yet their life was full of hypocrisy. They obeyed that law, yet they â€œkilledâ€ relationships everyday.
Youâ€™re familiar with the command to the ancients, â€˜Do not murder.â€™ Iâ€™m telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. Carelessly call a brother â€˜idiot!â€™ and you just might find yourself hauled into court. Thoughtlessly yell â€˜stupid!â€™ at a sister and you are on the brink of hellfire. The simple moral fact is that words kill. (5:21-22 MSG)
Their heart was not with God. Their motivation was wrong; they read the law and obeyed it and forgot God and His presence.
What am I saying? Jesus is against â€œperformance Christianityâ€ (which leads to hypocrisy which looks good on the outside). What do I mean by performance? You can check boxes of living a righteous life. You know Jesus and he saved you. You accepted his call. Now you are justified by His sacrifice. If you are not careful what to do next, you can fall in the trap called self- righteousness. Eventually you become a â€œprofessional Christianâ€ who keeps performing without a sanctified life.
Every day I go to God to check my heart. Every day we need to go to Jesus to sanctify our motives, our desires, our activities, our being who we are. Who am I, why am I doing what I am doing?
It is Be-attitude and not do-attitude.
I heard this illustration from Chip Ingram form his DVD â€œBalancing Lifeâ€™s Demands.â€
Imagine there was this friend of yours who had a dream to build a beautiful house, a mansion. He did it carefully and after a long time, he finally achieved his dream. He also wanted to have good a driveway. He spent hours planning that driveway like finding the right kind of tiles.
One day he invited you over to his new house. When you arrived, he stopped on the driveway and explained to you how great it was, how he found the tiles, who worked on it, how we should walk on that drivewayâ€¦ In the end, he thanked you for coming and visiting.
How tragic is this story. What is the purpose of the driveway? To enter to house.
This is exactly how Jesus saw with the Scribes and Pharisees who obeyed the law yet missed seeing God, entering the house of the Lord, being in a right relationship with God and each other. They kept talking about the â€œdrivewayâ€.
Let us look to the passage of Murder again.
So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you,Â leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:23,24 ESV)
Stop being religious; stop coming to church; stop acting everything is OK when your relationships are brokenâ€¦ How long can you act? How long you can pretend you are obeying the law yet you are â€œkillingâ€ your relationships?
-Instead Jesus wants to see us peacemakers. They are blessed. â€œBlessed are the peacemakers, they shall be called sons of God.â€
Question: Can we have peace with everyone?
Paul says inÂ Romans 12:18, "If possible,Â so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men." So far as it depends on you. Jesus took every step required of a human being to make matters right with his enemies (he never sinned), and still they had things against him and were not reconciled to him.
We each have a responsibility about the way we look at people around us. Calling them names will not do any good. Maybe we feel good calling them names. It does not do any good. Our responsibility is to love people as much as possible. Some are easier than others. Some are problem makers; you can stay away from them, but donâ€™t hate them. Praying and making peace with them is essential in our Christian life.
Question: which is easy, to make a donation to the church or to make peace with a person who hurt you, or you hurt him/herâ€¦
Reconciliation is harder than making a donationâ€¦. believe meâ€¦
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:11 ESV)
1ESV Study Bible Commentary
2 Bishop Ryle summed it up in these words: "The Old Testament is the Gospel in the bud, the New Testament is the Gospel in full flower. The Old Testament is the Gospel in the blade; the New Testament is the Gospel in full ear."
The cable cars of San Francisco do not have engines to drive them up and down those formidable hills. In the belly of each car sits a clamp, which is attached to a lever. When the brakeman pulls back on the lever, the clamp grabs on to a cable that runs beneath the street. It is the same with Christians. We have no independent source of power within ourselves. We cannot change our own lives, our own faulty behavior, never mind the world's. But there is an endless cable inside, the risen life of our Lord Jesus, manifested through the Holy Spirit, which is available to us. All we have to do is clamp onto that life for it to become available to us. This is what will enable us to stand in the face of adversity; to do whatever it is we are called to do; to have the moral courage to make decisions that are tough, but which we know are right.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Raffi is an Armenian children songs singer and composer. When my kids were little, we used to watch his tapes. One of the songs made me think:
â€œAll I really need is a song in my heart, food in my belly, and love in my family.â€
How appropriate are these words for a Motherâ€™s Day sermon. We can provide everything to our kids, a good education, good shelter, good toys, a good home, but they need something special that only God can give us, HIS LOVE. And it also goes the other way: children may buy expensive gifts or can invite their parents to a luxurious vacation to honor their mother, but in the end my wife always said to the kids: all I need is Love.
What is this word love that is so important for humans to exist?
We are funny in the family. I donâ€™t know about your family, but somehow our tolerance ends in our families. We will be in a hurricane of anger towards each other, suddenly the phone rings and we answer the phone very politely. What happened to love in the family? What does it mean to experience Godâ€™s love which the best in the family relationships?
I chose this morning 1 Corinthians 13. It is a chapter we often read in weddings. If you ask me, we should read it every morning before we start our day. In this chapter, there are 15 descriptions of the characteristics of Agape. I will take only three.
1. Love is not irritable or resentful (13:5)*
When we are angry we lose it. When we are angry we become irritable and resentful. Any small thing will blow things up.
Some people are easily angered and like fire in the haystack. They will blow up. Others are on the other side; they keep it to themselves and swallow their anger.
A pastor named those two types: skunk (smells really bad) and turtle (keeps it inside). Both are not biblical.
Anger is not a sin. There are things you should get angry about. When they tell you that Armenian Genocide is a fabricated story, or when people deny crimes against humanity you need to be angry. The Bible says, â€œBe angry, but do not sin.â€ God was angry.
There is a good kind anger and a bad kind of anger. There is righteous anger and there is selfish anger.
When we are angry, we should ask ourselves, â€œWhy am I angry? What do I do about it? How long will I stay angry?â€
Illustration: Once I was in a meeting when suddenly the discussion between two people became hot and not pleasant. As a pastor, I cooled down the meeting. One thing was important, at the end of the meeting those two hugged each other and apologized.
See thatÂ no one repays anyone evil for evil, but alwaysÂ seek to do good to one another and to everyone.Â (1 Thessalonians 5:15 ESV)
And be careful that when you get on each otherâ€™s nerves you donâ€™t snap at each other. Look for the best in each other, and always do your best to bring it out. (1 Thessalonians 5:15 MSG)
I will urge you specially in the family relationships you implement Christâ€™s love
2. Love is patient andÂ kind (13:4)
Patient in Greek is makrothyme?. long spirit, long fuse, long fierceness.
It has two words: Makro (long) and thymos (indignation), we get the word thermostat from this Greek word. Godâ€™s love gives us long time to not explode like fire.
Illustration: In my pastoral life I had many incidents where I meet people who did not like me. I understand, I cannot please everyone. Yet, it is important to have the right attitude about those people. I have seen miracles of God where some of those became good friends in the end. What was the secret? Not my charming character, no, it is Godâ€™s love Makrothymeo, the long fuse that helps the situation to change. Not always, But I have seen those events in my life.
Love is patient makrothyme?
One of the Beatitudes was: blessed are merciful for they will find mercy.
Definition of mercy is: â€œmercy means the ability to get right inside the other personâ€™s skin until we can see things with his/her eyes, the things with his/her mind, and feel things with his/her feelings.â€
How about at home? Do you give time to listen and understand your spouseâ€™s perspective when he/ she thinks so differently? Do you give time to your mother who does not understand the new apps that keep changing? Do you have the patience to explain to her how to apply these new apps? Do you have the patience towards the elderly people? Do you have patience when they drive slowly? Do you have the patience to teach and guide your children, your teenagers?
Why do we have more patience outside with coworkers and business associates but not at home? When we arrive home, we act differently. Don't they deserve the best?
Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it. (Proverbs 3:27 ESV)
Never walk away from someone who deserves help; your hand isÂ Godâ€™sÂ hand for that person. (Proverbs 3:27 MSG)
We are salt and light of the earth. Start at your home, please.
3. Love doesnâ€™t keep score of the sins of others, (MSG) Love does not keep a record of wrongs.
In fact, Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing (13:6 ESV)
Once someone asked me. â€œIf you see your spouseâ€™s decision turned out being wrong even if you warned him, donâ€™t you want to say: â€˜I told you soâ€™?â€
â€œI told youâ€¦â€ does not work. Once you say those words, the other person will close their ears, they will not listen. You can help the other person by standing firm next to them, being kind and understanding. Being considerate for their feelings. The message of â€œI told youâ€ will not work. The person eventually will realize what they have done. Of course, I am referring about not harmful situations. This does not apply for rape, abuse, physical or verbal.
Once a pastor said: â€œDonâ€™t repeat it, delete it...â€
Love does not keep the scoreâ€¦ Love is not rude and it does not insist or demands its own way.
Keeping the score will not helpâ€¦. Remember family life is not a competition. We are not racing against each other. We are complementary to each other.
In marriage counseling, I always say, â€œThink about what is best for both of you. It is US and not YOU or ME; it is US.â€
Instead of counting our faults, love rejoices with the truth.
Christ is the truth. His presence lubricates our relationships. Truth, Christ reveals who we are, we donâ€™t hide. Christâ€™s love reveals.
When the prodigal son returned he faced the true love of his father. Truth was right there and he was liberated from guilt and shame. His older brother unfortunately rejected that. How sad is to see in the family we cannot accept the weak brother who came back home.
Love at home. â€œAll we need is love,â€ says the song, I will say, â€œAll we need is Godâ€™s love.â€
I will end with a motherâ€™s letter to her children:
Every year my children ask me the same question. After thinking about it, I decided I'd give them my real answer:
What do I want for Mother's Day? I want you. I want you to keep coming around, I want you to bring your kids around, I want you to ask me questions, ask my advice, tell me your problems, ask for my opinion, ask for my help. I want you to come over and rant about your problems, rant about life, whatever. Tell me about your job, your worries, your kids. I want you to continue sharing your life with me. Come over and laugh with me, or laugh at me, I don't care. Hearing you laugh is music to me.
I spent the better part of my life raising you the best way I knew how. Now, give me time to sit back and admire my work.
Raid my refrigerator, help yourself, I really don't mind. In fact, I wouldn't want it any other way.
When you ask me what I want for Mother's Day, I say "nothing" because you've already been giving me my gift all year. I want you.
These verses from Hosea surmises how God wants his children to love him:
â€œI donâ€™t want your sacrificesâ€”I want your love; I donâ€™t want your offeringsâ€”I want you to know me.â€ (Hosea 6:6 TLB)
The same way God comes to us as parent saying, I want youâ€¦. Bring yourself to God. May motherâ€™s day be a time to reflect on those verses.
Express Christâ€™s love, the best of all in your family relationship.
*Some of the ideas are taken from Pastor Rick Warren.
You are the salt of the earth,Â but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?Â (Matthew 5:13 ESV)
Salt is good,Â but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?Â Â It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. (Luke 14:34,35 ESV)
Salt is a great metaphor for positive effect in a community. I can say the same about light. Both metaphors are good examples â€œto make a difference.â€ Without light nothing happens. In Genesis, we read: â€œLet there be light.â€
What does it mean to be salt?
1. Salt as a Taste Enhancer
Salt gives taste. You have seen how the food that we cook will be tasteless when without any salt. I make hummus, and if I forget the salt, all that work will almost be useless.
Jesus was addressing the nation of Israel, which had lost its â€œsaltinessâ€ in society. But Israel was behaving like every other nation, their emphasis was on political power. In 70 AD Jerusalem was destroyed and people walked on the ruins of Jerusalem. Â â€œIf salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet.â€ (Matthew 5:13 ESV)
What does it mean to be salt as taste enhancer in our society?
First, salt come out of the saltshaker. So get out of your comfort zone and be ready to be effective wherever God calls you. Salt never did any good when it was sitting on a shelf some place â€œwatchingâ€ to the meat which sitting somewhere else. That does not work.
Church is not called to be warehouse of slat. What is the use for piles of salt sitting thereâ€¦ God called each of to get out and be sent.
What Would Jesus Do WWJD? Although it is an old slogan, yet it is very meaningful. What would Jesus do if he went to the places you go? Jesus at your workplace, at the grocery, in your neighborhood, in a hospital, in your home. We are called to be ambassadors of Christ.
2. Salt as a Preserver and Antiseptic
Salt can preserve. My mother and grandmother boiled grape leave or prepared cheese for the winter season and they added salt to preserve the food in jars. How wonderful is this metaphor, that Christ can bring prevention from decay. When we LIVE in CHRIST, we have a meaningful purpose to serve, love, care, heal, teach, minister, that preserves the message of Christ in this world.
Salt keeps from decay?
Why do we have VBS or Sunday school? The effort is to educate our children with Christian principles so that their life will be immune from the decay in the world.
Does Salt ever lose its saltiness, or taste?
A chemist one day challenged me about this metaphor, saying salt is a stable compound (NaCl) and would never lose its taste. This boggled me for quite a while. Why would Jesus say something like this? Then I found an answer.
Therefore, can salt lose its saltiness?
During the time of Jesus â€œmost salt came from the Dead Sea and contained impurities (carnallite and gypsum). If not processed properly, it would have a poor taste and would be worse than useless, being unusable for food and creating a disposal problem.â€1
This will move me to my third point.
3. Salt as a Fertilizer
I was reading an article by Anthony Bradley in CT called â€œYou are the Manure of the Earthâ€. That shocked me a little to see what is going on?
In the article Anthony gives examples how salt can be a fertilizer in agriculture. â€œThose days salts were unlike the modern table salt (sodium chloride) in our kitchens. The salts in Jesusâ€™ day were mixtures of chlorides of sodium, magnesium, and potassium, with very small amounts of calcium sulfate (gypsum)â€2
The passage in Luke makes more sense when we see salt used as a fertilizer. Historically, not only the Hebrews used salt as fertilizer, but the Chinese and the early Romans as well.
What is the task of the fertilizer?
To Stimulate growth in the barren land.
Bradley adds: â€œ If we are supposed to be salt in the agricultural sense, that means we are supposed to get messy and to go where nothing is growing right now.â€3
-This morning please just think creatively: what does it mean to get â€œmessy and to go where nothing is growing right now?â€
-Mother Theresa encouraged donors to not just give a check, but to come to Calcutta and touch the poor in person.
-What does it mean for CACC to be salt?
My sermon title: I am sending you.
Salt has to come out of the saltshaker.
Salt has to be rubbed over the meat.
Salt has to be thrown in the food.
Salt had to be thrown in the soil as a fertilizer.
Please think in three areas of the usage of salt: as taste enhancer, perseverative and fertilizer.
You can ask the deacons to help them to reach out to our congregation.
1. ESV Commentary
2. You Are the Manure of the Earth, Anthony B. Bradley, p 74 CT October 2016
3. ibid 75
Last Sunday my message was from the Gospel of John where he describes how Jesus appeared to the disciples and eventually to Thomas. The title of the sermon was â€œA Special Touch After the Resurrection.â€ During the week, I prayed that you might experience the touch of Jesus in your life. Let me tell you that Jesus continues to touch us in different ways every day. This morning I would love to return to Matthew chapter 5 and continue the Sermon on the Mount. After having covered the Beatitudes (5:1-14), the next topic is being salt and light in the world. It is an invitation to the church to become salt and light to bring taste, preservation, growth and enlightenment to the world.
I said before that the Beatitudes are not things you do so that you can become a â€œhappyâ€ person. They are not a list of checks you accomplish. They are not teachings about behaving properly. No, these teachings are an invitation to become members in the Kingdom of God. They are an invitation to â€œlive right-side up in an upside down world.â€ They are an invitation to become salt and light.
Right after the eight Beatitudes, Jesus declares that his followers represent him in the world. Last week when I read the post-resurrection passage in John 20, we saw a similar concept:
Jesus said to them again,Â â€œPeace be with you. AsÂ the Father has sent me,Â even so I am sending you.â€Â And when he had said this, heÂ breathed on them and said to them,Â â€œReceive the Holy Spirit.â€ (John 20:21ESV)
â€œI am sending youâ€ to the world. He did not send us alone; he sent us with His Spirit. The advocate, the comforter, the healer, the reminder, the presence of Christ is with us everyday, so that we LIVE IN CHRIST. As a result, we can be salt and light in the world.
In my quiet time I do different things to plug in to God. I was listening Rick Warrenâ€™s sermon about Being Agents of Mercy in the World. He said: â€œGod has five purposes in your life; 1) God wants you to know and love Him; that is called worship; 2) God wants you to belong to His family; that is called fellowship; 3) God wants you to grow spiritually to become like Christ; that is called discipleship; 4) God wants you to serve other people not yourself; that is called ministry; 5) God wants you to share the Good News with other people; that is called your mission in life. We all need to experience those five areas in our lives to grow in faith and live it out. Remember that we represent Christ in the world; we represent Christ in the market; we represent Christ in the neighborhood; we represent Christ at your workplace. (Salt and light)
In Acts, we read as Jesus bids his final farewell to his disciples:
But you will receiveÂ powerÂ when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, andÂ you will beÂ my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea andÂ Samaria, andÂ to the end of the earth.â€ (Acts 1:8 ESV)
What is a witness? In the courtroom, witnesses are those who testify what they saw. It is not the job of the witness to convince the jury; it is not the job of the witness to judge someone who is guilty or innocent; no, just simply to testify what they sawâ€¦
Last Sunday my sermon was about allowing Jesus to touch you. I mentioned that we do not see Jesus literally, like the disciples saw him after resurrection. My sermon ended by inviting people to allow Jesus to touch them. After the service, someone came to me and shared some reflections. The person said it would be great to hear other peopleâ€™s experiences of seeing Jesus and being touched by him.
This is called testimony. Do we have a story, a testimony about Christ touched us?
We will continue in English.
A Special Touch after the Resurrection I (Armenian)
This past Sunday was the first Sunday after Easter. My sermon and reflections that day focused on 102 years of Godâ€™s miracles in our lives as Armenians. Today I would like to reflect on life after the resurrection. In the liturgical calendar, last Sunday was â€œThomas Sundayâ€, while in the Armenian Church calendar it was â€œNew Sunday.â€ It is a new life, a new beginning. It is like celebrating the New Year. We live in the post-resurrection era until the return of our Lord Jesus Christ.
We will be reflecting on a man called Thomas. I love Thomas. He is realistic man. He sees, and touches, then he believes. We often look down on Thomas as a doubtful person. Donâ€™t we all face similar issues?
Sometimes I get frustrated about the post-resurrection events. What do I mean? Why did Jesus not appear to Pilate, Herod, the High Priest, the soldiers who crucified him, the Pharisees, or everyoneâ€¦? Why did he choose his appearance to certain people and for a short time? The resurrected Jesus stayed here for 40 days before his ascension. He only appeared to his disciples about 10 times.
He appeared to Mary Magdalene (John 20:11-18).
He appeared to â€œthe womenâ€ on the way to tell the disciples about the empty tomb. (Matthew 28:8-10).
He appeared to Cleopas and his friend on the way to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35).
He appeared to the disciples while they were fishing with Peter and then he prepared breakfast for them (John 20:19-25).
He appeared to the disciples and showed his hands and feet and he was hungry they gave him broiled fish (Luke 24:36-42).
He appeared to Thomas who wanted to touch Jesus (John 20:24-29).
He appeared to some 500 disciples at a large gathering (1 Corinthians 15:6).
He appeared to James (1 Corinthians 15:7).
And in the great finale, he appeared after 40 days to â€œall the apostlesâ€ at the Ascension (Luke 24:49-53; Acts 1:3-11).
It makes me wonder why Jesus appeared only to those people. Why not making a big noise, with trumpets, cymbals and angels coming down from heaven and declaring that the Jesus they killed was alive.
His appearances surely opened the eyes of the disciples and more than 500 followers, whom I will even call the disciples of Jesus. It surly had an enormous influence on those people who continued spreading the news that Jesus was alive.
Jesusâ€™ â€œlimitedâ€ appearance had a particular message. An important message to them and to us who live the post-resurrection days.
Let me start with the disciples, including Thomas.
On the eveningÂ of that day, the first day of the week,Â the doors being locked where the disciples wereÂ for fear of the Jews,Â Jesus came and stood among them and said to them,Â â€œPeace be with you.â€20Â When he had said this,Â he showed them his hands and his side. ThenÂ the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. (John 20:19-20ESV)
His hands comforted the troubled disciples. Looking at His hands, they remembered them:
-patting the young children
-making mud and touching the blind manâ€™s eyes
-touchingÂ ZacchaeusÂ and visiting him in his house
-comforting the weak and the outcast
Now they were looking at the same hands with nail marks on them. The hands of their dear Lordâ€¦
We do not know why Thomas was not there with the other disciples that evening. Perhaps he was disappointed or needed to be alone. How could his Lord be crucified? He could not grasp all that had happened.
All of us experience periods of disappointment, especially when some expectation has not been met. Withdrawals are helpful for a short while. They are dangerous when they last for long periods without any fellowship.
We will continue in English.
A Special Touch after the Resurrection II (English)
Sometimes I get frustrated about the post-resurrection events. What do I mean? Why did Jesus not appear to Pilate, Herod, the High Priest, the soldiers who crucified him, the Pharisees, or everyoneâ€¦? Why did he choose his appearance to certain people and for a short time? The resurrected Jesus stayed here for 40 days before his ascension. He only appeared to his disciples about 10 times.
Jesusâ€™ bodily appreance as a resurrected person was important for them and for us. Theologically, resurrection is crucial for two reasons:
1. It is vindication of what was accomplished on the Cross: the forgiveness of our sins and our reconciliation with God.
2. It looks forward to what our bodily life will be like in the kingdom of heaven.
When Jesus saw Thomas, he asked him:
â€œPut your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.â€Â (John 20:27 ESV)
â€œThomas and disciples, here is the proof of my suffering for you. I love you. Here are the scars of my love towards you.â€
I donâ€™t know what Thomasâ€™ reaction was. Did he put his fingers in Jesusâ€™ hand? I donâ€™t know, maybe. But I know Jesus touched Thomas that day.
â€œStop doubting, Thomas. Here I am, believe in me. I am real!â€
Now how did the story end?
â€œHave you believed because you have seen me?Â Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.â€ (John 20:29 ESV)
Some saw and believed. Some never saw yet believes. Those are called Makarios: it is translated as blessed, happy, fortunate, content, congratulations, in sync, right side up. In Armenian â€œyeraneli e.â€ My translation is, â€œHow fortunate is that person who believes without seeing.â€ Makarios is the one who is in the kingdom of God, seeking His kingdom first.
In the 40 days after Jesusâ€™ resurrection, he appeared just a few times. Here is an explanation by Mark Galli. He says:
â€œJesus knew that what was coming was more miraculous and astonishing still. He was not satisfied to be a mere object of wonder and worship, someone we observe and marvel at from afar. Someone we could merely touch, see, and hear as someone separate from us. He did not want to establish a religion that memorialized this miracle, set it in lifeless stone.
No, the great miracle that the gospel proclaims is not merely that Christ lived bodily after Crucifixion but that he lives dynamically in us today.â€1
-Paul is a great example of not seeing the bodily resurrected Jesus, yet he became a disciple of Christ, because Jesus touched him enormously.
If Jesus touched Thomas literally, I believe Paul was touched by Jesus, his eyes were opened and he â€œsaw Christâ€ in a different way. I had a similar conversion in Kessab many years ago. I did not see the bodily-resurrected Christ, but his presence was so real, so alive in me that I cannot even describe in words.
See how Paul explains his encounter with Jesus:
I have beenÂ crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who livesÂ in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God,Â who loved me andÂ gave himself for me.(Galatians 2:20 ESV)
This is the work of the Holy Spirit in Paul. Do you see why Jesus appeared only a few times so that the disciples will learn that the focus will be to LIVE in the resurrected Christ. Please notice the plan of God. Jesus did ascend to heaven and the Holy Spirit came like burning fire to continue the work of our Lord in us. We cannot and should not separate the work of the Triune God in us.
So, like Thomas who was touched by Jesus, today Jesus is ready to touch you this morning in a special way. The risen Lord is alive.
What does it mean â€œit is not longer we who live, but Christ lives in us, in meâ€¦â€
I believe when we abide in Christ, when he lives in us, when we are IN CHRIST, the old nature dies and Christ dwells in us.
No wonder Paul uses the phrase IN CHRIST 200 times in his letters. â€œChristians do not merely believe truths about Christ; we do not merely trust in Godâ€™s forgiveness given at the cross and the that Jesus rose bodily from the grave. The most distinctive mark of Christians is this: We are people in whom the resurrected Christ dwellsâ€.2
so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faithâ€”that you, beingÂ rooted andÂ grounded in love. (Ephesians 3:17ESV)
How can we dwell in him?
Going back to Thomas story:
Thomas came to his knees.Â â€œMy Lord and My Godâ€.
Peter came to his knees in the boat: â€œGo away from me, I am a sinful manâ€ (Luke 5:8).
Our vessels are broken, whatever we put in it, it drainsâ€¦ We are filled up with Christ when we are IN CHRSIT. We are filed up by STAYING in CHRIST. We are filled up when we ABIDE IN HIM.
How many times you felt his presence and you ignored his call? How long you can live pretend everything is fineâ€¦.
A man was in a plane ready for takeoff on the runway. Suddenly the plane started taxiing and went back to where it was. He asked why. They said the pilot felt that something was wrong with the plane.
After a while, they went to the runway again. Again the plane was returned to where it was. Once again they were notified that the pilot heard something from the plane engine.
At the third attempt, this man was happy that they were going to fly; he told the flight attendant that he is glad that they fixed the problem. She said: â€œOh Yes, You know, they changed the pilot.â€
How long we can ignore the special touch of resurrected Jesus? How long we can think we can â€œflyâ€ safely by changing the â€œpilot?â€ How long can one say â€˜I have not touched by HANDS OF JESUS?â€™
We do not see, but we believe.
Though you have not seen him, you love him.Â Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,Â 9Â obtainingÂ the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:8-9)
It isÂ time to growÂ andÂ believe without touching, because he touched you first. Just allow him to touch you. Once a theologian said:Â â€œFaith is walking to the edge of all the light you have and taking one more step.â€Â We do have the light. Let us not ignore it. Many of you have seen the light. Now the decision is yours to say: â€œMy Lord and My God, I want to walk with you. Touch me everyday. â€
1 Mark Galli, The Most Astonishing Easter Miracle, Christianity Today, April 2017, P 31
2 ibid p 32