A recent sermon of mine:
Listen here: Sunday Sermon 7 March 2010
Read it below:
3 Lent – Exodus 3:1-15, 1 Corithians 10:1-13 & Luke 13:1-9
Having small children can be challenging. Educating them about what is dangerous, what can hurt them and what they can and cannot touch is an art form, especially if you want to do it without just screaming at them.
For example, I was taught never to put a metal object into the plug socket. I have never actually seen with my own eyes what happens if you should do it, but I have been told that it may kill you or at least give you a very nasty shock. Electricity is dangerous. It can hurt or even kill you.
So whenever I see Jacob, my 3 year old son, near a plub socket I become alert and ready to intervene, with warnings and eventually action.
In the same way, there are times when pastors and preachers are confronted with passages that compel them to give a warning. Well, today, it’s the “you are going towards the plug socket with a stick” sermon!
This morning is such a time.
The message form our readings today is clear – messing with God is dangerous. What do I mean by messing with God? Not taking God seriously; picking and choosing what we believe and what we won’t believe of the Bible; deliberately breaking a command of God to satisfy our own passion or desires; ignoring his commands because we know it will mean we will HAVE to radically change our life style; not being sure if we really believe, but we love the tradition.
The message this morning is simple – let us get serious with God; we must give our life to him and commit our entire future into his hands, and commit to obey his every word, for if we are not doing that then we are playing with electricity – we are sticking metal objects into the plug sockets – and it eventually will hurt or kill us.
This was brought home to me in a powerful way recently. Many of us can so easily go about our lives ignoring God – ignoring the essence and reality of the Christian faith. But just image waking up to an ordinary day, going about your daily business when all of a sudden, at 7 mins to five, an earthquake hits your town and within seconds you find yourself thrust into eternity to face the living God. That is exactly what happened to thousands of Hatians in January. It has happened to hundreds of Chileans in February. Every day 150,835 people around the world die. Every day, 150,835 people suddenly discover themselves in front of their creator where nothing is hidden and your entire life, thoughts, actions and decisions are laid bare before you. Some are prepared, but many are not prepared to meet God. Are we prepared at this moment to meet God?
Our God is a Holy God. He tells Moses to take off his sandals for the very ground that is around the burning bush is holy. Such is the presence of God Moses cannot even look at God.
God is holy and righteous. A holy God cannot be near sin. Isaiah knew this. In Isaiah 6 he says “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”
Ezekiel experiences this when Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. And when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of one speaking.
Many of us took the 90 Day Bible challenge last year and in our groups we had much discussion on the wrath of God. People talked about how angry God seems in the Old Testament. And to some extent he is angry.
God’s wrath is very predictable. It is a part of his intense Holiness. A Holy and Righteous God MUST have wrath. Why? Because He is angry with sin. God will always be angry with sin. One theologian has said that God’s wrath is his personal, righteous, constant, hostility towards evil and his settled refusal to compromise with it and his resolve to condemn it.
We see the outworking of this in our reading from 1 Corinthians 10:1-13. Paul is reminding the readers of Corinth of some history. The Israelites who left Egypt saw miracles, and God’s power clearly. And yet they desired evil. Some of them were idolaters, they indulged in immorality – having claimed to be God’s people. They took God for granted. They believed God would always be on their side despite what they did. They had been playing with electricity. And God deals with the sin. It is a picture of how God will deal with all sin. Sin, rebellion against a holy, righteous and just God WILL be dealt with. They had been playing with electricity.
We must not take our spiritual walk for granted. We must not neglect our relationship with God.
This is about life and death, not just physically but spiritually; not just about the here and now, but for eternity. And it’s about the fact that eternity may begin for us at anytime, at any moment.
That is Jesus’ point in our Gospel reading. There was a belief that if a bad thing happened to you, or if you got a disease, or if you became disabled it was definitely because you were a particularly bad sinner and you were receiving your just deserts. Jesus says that this is not necessarily the case. You cannot attribute all disaster to God’s judgement on those people. Those Galileans, Jesus says, that Pilate just killed – and those 18 people on whom the tower of Siloam fell on killed, they were not worse sinners. It just happened. It is not necessarily an indication of a judgment upon someone.
But here is Jesus point – how should we respond to such tragic events – by REPENTING. Why? Because it may happen to YOU and it happen to me. The issue is not why such a thing happened, but what is the state of your relationship with God IF such a thing were to happen? Are we prepared to stand before our God at any moment! We will ALL come before God. It may be sooner or later. It is out of our control. It may be after living a long life and dying peacefully in our bed, or it may be because of a natural disaster which hits us unexpectedly or it may be because of a drunk driver who slams into our car.
OK. You have heard the warning. In order to truly appreciate the good news you need to know the extent of the bad news. But here is the good news. Here is the remarkable news.
God’s anger with sin is not incompatible with his love for us.
This is the other side of the coin in our passages.
In Exodus, God has told Moses he is on holy ground – Moses is unable to look upon the Lord – but just see what God tells Moses – I have seen the affliction of MY people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters; I know their sufferings and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians.
God says that HE HAS COME DOWN TO DELIVER. This holy, righteous God – the God whom Moses cannot bear to look at, has revealed himself in order to deliver his people from bondage.
In 1 Corinthians, having told the church about Israel’s history and that these events in scripture are a warning to us, given as examples of what happens when we drift away from the Lord, Paul gives a promise that God is FAITHFUL and such is his love and care for us he will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can endure, and even more amazingly, for those who trust in Him, He will give us an escape route out of every temptation.
And, finally, in our Gospel reading, Jesus goes on to tell a parable of a man planting a fig tree that does not bear fruit for three years. He is ready to cut it down. But the vinedresser intercedes. Wait, he says. Let me work on the tree – let me try and make it bears some fruit.
What a wonderful picture. God the Father, whose holiness and righteousness and justice sees an unfruitful tree which is taking up space t be cut down. But the Son, Jesus Christ, intercedes and says wait, let me work on them, and see if they will produce some fruit. And then look at the work of Christ, who does everything to draw the tree into bearing fruit.
Jesus Christ has done EVERYTHING for us. He has died and risen again so that we may not be cut down, but that we might bear fruit and flourish in God’s kingdom.
God is patient. He is merciful. He has not cut down all the dead trees immediately, because of the work of Christ.
There is a day coming – God alone knows when that day will be – when the opportunity to be saved will be withdrawn. For each of us a day may be coming when that decision to get more serious about our faith, never comes because we will find our selves in God’s presence.
So my plea to us, and I am speaking to myself, is: Please, please, let us all quit playing a round when it comes to God. Today, let us get serious about Jesus. Let us give him permission to come and change our lives and our natures, and our marriages, and our personal lives and our habits and our home lives and our relationships with our kids and our relationships with each other – let us give him permission to become the sole and ultimate Lord, King and director our lives, let us say to him this morning we want to quit playing a round with our eternal destinies, we want to get rid of the sins we know we hold onto and enjoy and that today we will submit entirely to his will, his ways and his Word. That we will become students of his word, that we will commit to building our pray life, that we will set aside our own ambitions and desires and wants and be willing to glorify God alone; that our contentment will not b in stuff but in enjoying God alone; that we will be committed to building God’s kingdom here in this Church and in this community.
Will we accept that today? Will we put down the metal object and step away from the plug socket?
He is beckoning us. He has revealed to us how he feels about sin and he has revealed and demonstrated how much he has loved us and what he is willing to do for us to rescue us.
What are we waiting for?
Let us accept it today.