Month: February, 2015

“Driven to the Wilderness”

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father….

Please pray with me…

As I was reading the Gospel lesson for this morning and contemplating on what I was to write, I couldn’t get past a phrase that I had really never noticed before. I must have read this particular Scripture 100 times but only this week did I notice completely the directness of verse 12, it says, “The Spirit immediately drove Him (Jesus) into the wilderness.” Of course many of us know what happened in that wilderness. Jesus was tempted by the devil for forty days.

The Spirit drove him into the wilderness. It was obviously important to the Father that this episode in Jesus’ life take place. The Spirit of God, sent to be our helper, has driven Jesus into a world of temptation. It really makes you think doesn’t it? It was God the Father’s plan that His Son was to be tempted and He sent His Spirit to make sure it happened. What’s the reason? Was there a chance that Jesus would resist? Why was it important for Jesus to pass the test? Why even test Him at all?

Mark leaves out many of the finer details of this episode in Jesus’ life but these few words in verse 12 are written with greater urgency.

In Luke and Matthew it says that Jesus was “led” by the Spirit, still the same plan but without the heightened emphasis. Why does Mark add the dramatics?

To be tempted is to have someone or something convince you to do something or to try something. In this case, God is sending His Son and the Devil himself will be waiting for Him. Is God wondering if Jesus will do all that is required of Him? Is He wondering if maybe the humanness in Him might overcome the Godliness? Is He not sure that the glory found in Him was enough to overcome the world and all its enticements?

What we need to do is look at this part of Scripture in the context of Jesus’ life. He has just been baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan and will soon start His earthly ministry. But before He begins this next phase of His life, He must face temptation in its highest form, from the devil himself.

First we read of the joyous occasion of His Baptism. We hear God speak from heaven, “You are my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” and then immediately He starts the process in the wilderness. This is a major change in the emotion of the story. Jesus is immediately driven by the Holy Spirit from the incredible blessing of Baptism to face the incredible tension of temptation. Mark doesn’t give us the whole story of Christ’s temptation but it’s enough to know that He faced it, just like we do every day.

But the question remains, why was Jesus tempted and why was it so very important that He was? Why, as the Son of God, did He have to do this?

As we begin the Lenten season, Jesus is already making His way to the cross. His whole ministry was to culminate on this one self-less act. In His Baptism, Jesus sentences Himself to death. These next three years will be spent with the final sacrifice always on His mind.

So Jesus is driven into the wilderness to begin the process. The Devil will offer Him many things to tempt Him to take a different course. He literally promises Him the world if He will make the choice to live and not to die so tragically on the cross. Satan tries to steer Him away from this course of undeserved suffering and death.

But in the end we see Jesus emerging from this test the victor, with a renewed faith and a greater sense of who He was and what He was sent to do. It is during this temptation that Jesus begins to set His face toward Calvary.

Jesus knew the importance of His Father’s plan for Him. He knew that we would be lost unless He was to see this plan all the way through. In this wilderness experience, Jesus is strengthened and His Godly character is witnessed.

So does this mean that God leads us to temptation in order that we might be strengthened in our faith? Does he put us on temptations path to see if we will pass the test? Does He sometimes leave us in temptation so that we are forced to find our own way out?

First we must understand that Jesus is different from us. For Him to resist temptation is markedly dissimilar. He is the only one ever born without sin so sinful temptations don’t bring with them the same urges that they do for us who were born into sin. I believe this is why He had to be driven into the wilderness, because He was not as easily motivated by the charms of worldly sin. Unlike us, His first choice is always to avoid temptation so He had to be coaxed with authority into it, so that He might experience the same things we experience so willingly.

God does not tempt us but does He sometimes allow the sinfulness of the world to tempt us? To this I say yes. Maybe it’s because I find myself so easily tempted and I want to think I might learn something from it or that my faith will be somehow strengthened in the struggle. I believe that in life we are forced to make choices and that the choices to follow our natural urges into sin are always countered by our urges to follow God’s command.

In Mark 12:28 -31, Jesus is asked a question, It says, And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. ‘The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

This is the choice we are faced with. Are we to follow temptation away from God or are we to follow our Lord with all our heart and with all our soul, and with all our mind and with all our strength. We are not tempted by God to break these commandments but by the devil, so who is going to be the victor in our lives?

Last week I mentioned one of my favorite shows as a kid, Hee Haw. Well they had another great character there by the name of Doc Campbell. Does anyone remember him? In one episode Doc Campbell is confronted by a patient who says he broke his arm in two places. The doc replies, “Well then, stay out of them places!” He may have something there. We cannot regularly put ourselves in the face of temptation and not be affected.

When faced with the problem of temptation, we need to take the good doctor’s advice and “stay out of them places.”

I don’t believe that God brings temptation into our lives but because of sin, temptations are a part of every life because our natural sin continually tries to convince us to be our own Gods. Temptations are part of our world and we must learn to avoid them and resist them.

There is a bumper sticker that reads, “Lead me not into temptation, I can find it myself.” Temptation is so common to us that we sometimes don’t realize were undergoing it. For many Christians temptations are little more than an annoyance because we often miscalculate the danger in them thinking, somehow, that their faith will see us through. Yet we all fail on a regular basis, despite our best efforts. We know deep down what is right and what is wrong. We even know that the right thing is best for us, yet we feel the same urges as every other person on earth, believer and non-believer alike. Too often, we are no better than the people of the world because we ignore God’s signals and we choose to follow our own paths because it’s easier that way. Then when we do succumb to temptation we blame someone else. Philip Yancey, in his book “Reaching for the Invisible God” describes the way God gets blamed for things in this way.
“When Princess Diana died in an automobile accident, a minister was interviewed and was asked the question “How can God allow such a terrible tragedy?”

And I loved his response. He said, “Could it have had something to do with a drunk driver going ninety miles an hour in a narrow tunnel? Just How, exactly, was God involved.”

Many years ago, boxer, Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini, killed a Korean opponent with a hard right hand to the head. At the press conference after the Korean’s death, Mancini said, “Sometimes I wonder why God does the things he does.”
In a letter to Dr. James Dobson, a young woman asked this anguished question, “Four years ago, I was dating a man and became pregnant. I was devastated. I asked God, “Why have you allowed this to happen to me?”
Susan Smith, the South Carolina mother a couple years ago who pushed her two sons into a lake to drown and then blamed a fictional car-jacker for the deed, wrote in her confession: “I dropped to the lowest point when I allowed my children to go down that ramp into the water without me. I took off running and screaming, ‘Oh God! Oh God, no! What have I done? Why did you let this happen?”
Now the question remains, exactly what role did God play in a boxer beating his opponent to death, a teenage couple giving into temptation in the back seat of a car, or a mother drowning her children?
Is God responsible for these acts? To the contrary, they are examples of incredible human free will being exercised on a fallen planet. And yet it’s in our nature as mortal, frail, fallen people to lash out at one who is not mortal, frail or fallen, that being God.”Or it’s like A woman who bought an extravagant dress, and the husband asked why did it have to be so extravagant, She said, “the devil made me buy it,” The husband asked, “Why didn’t you say get behind me Satan?,” The woman said, “I did and he said it looked as good in the back as it did in the front, so I bought it.”… t’s easy to play the blame game. It’s much harder to resist temptation.

I believe that God the Father wanted to see His Son face the same things we face every day. Our temptations might not be so grandiose or our tempter so obvious, but temptations are always on our doorsteps and Jesus, if He is to deal with humanity, must experience what humanity experiences. He must be given the chance to show us that resistance can be done in the name and power of Christ, to show us how it is to be done and in who’s name it should be done. The Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness to show us all, that God is stronger than the devil. He loved us enough to send His Son in the wilderness to be tempted so that we might come to understand that His Word can and will deliver us.

Temptations will continue to burden us, it’s what happens in a fallen world, but by God’s grace, He gives you all you need to resist them. Does He allow it to happen sometimes, yes, if we are to live in a sinful world, we must learn to find victory only in Christ by resisting the devil and all his attempts to drag us off the narrow path.

That is why it’s so very important to be committed to Christ and to protect yourselves in His name by devoting yourself to Bible study, worship, servant-hood, prayers and meditation. By God’s grace we can learn to avoid temptation. We can learn to walk away from those things that separate us from God, we can learn to let God be God.

The Spirit immediately drove Him out into the wilderness. Even at the very beginning of His ministry He paid the price for our sins. May God keep temptation from our doorsteps and may we all come to learn what He has done for us by His grace to overcome the sin of the world. From the beginning to the very end, Christ’s thoughts were with us. In His life we find example of how to live ours in the confidence that can only be found in Him.

Just like Jesus, we must also set our face on the cross, not because of what we must sacrifice, but because of what has already been sacrificed for us. Just like Christ, we must put all our faith in God so that when temptations do arrive, we have the weapons to destroy them. Just like Christ, we must find our strength in God’s word so that His Spirit might lead us onto the narrow path to heaven.

Don’t forget who you are and to whom you belong. As Children of God we can be assured of the victory won for us by Jesus Christ. Now let us go on with our lives in His confidence. Amen

Bible Study Questions – Mark 1:9-15

Bible Study Questions – Mark 1:9-15

Mark starts out this section of Scripture with the words, “In those days.” Why? Mark 8:1

The verb used to describe the heavens being “torn open” is the same verb used in Mark 15:38? Could there be a connection? Isaiah 64:1

In Matthew’s account of Jesus’ Baptism, he recalls that John said to Jesus, who had come to him to be Baptized, “I need to be baptized by you, and why should you come to me? Why did he say this? Matthew 3:13-14; John 1:22-34

Why did Jesus come to be baptized? Matthew 3:14-15

If Jesus was already filled with the Holy Spirit, what is the purpose of the Holy Spirit descending on Him now? Isaiah 42:1, 61:1; Luke 4:18-19

Do not think of this as something remote from us? Acts 1:7-8

How is the dove a symbol of power? Genesis 8:8-12

In Matthew when God speaks He says, “This is my Son, with whom I am well pleased” But Mark and Luke’s versions say, “You are my Son, with whom I am well pleased? Why the difference?

Voeltz translated this verse “This is my Son, with whom I have become well pleased.” How does this change the narrative?

Why do you think that part of Jesus’ preparation for ministry included temptation in the wilderness?

What does it mean that immediately the Spirit “drove” (Veltz in his new commentary translates it as, “throws”) Him into the wilderness to be tempted? Why the urgency?

What similarities do you see in the Israelites being sent to the wilderness for 40 years and Jesus being sent to the wilderness for 40 days?

Does God sometimes let our temptations happen? For what reason?

Why are wild beasts included in the story? Hosea 2:18; Isaiah 11:6-9, 35:7-10, 43:19-20;    Ezekiel 34:23-31

What does it mean that the angels attended to Him? Psalm 91:11-12(13)14-16

What does it say about Jesus that He begins His ministry in the same area and jurisdiction that John was beheaded in?

“On The Mountain Top”

 

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…

Please pray with me…

A couple of weeks ago, we got Emily her first car. We’ve done this for all our kids. Our oldest son, Erik, wanted this beat-up old pick-up that reminded him of his grandpa’s truck. It ran well though and he was happy so that’s what he got. Emily said she definitely did not want a pickup, she wanted something cute, whatever that means, so we got her cute.

My son Alex was the most difficult to buy for. He wanted more than we could afford. He wanted sporty and fast. We were ok with sporty but the fast part was a little less popular with his parents. We looked and looked and as the sun was setting and the lots were closing we finally found it. It was a 1981 Datsun 280Z. This was actually my dream car the year I graduated in 1980. It was in incredible shape and was obviously taken care of. It fit the budget after a little wrangling and we got it.

Alex loved that car and he drove it everywhere. One morning, we had to go early to the church I was serving. Back then my commute was over 50 miles so Alex asked if he could just drive there a little later. We thought that was ok so we let him. It was about half-way into our Bible study (we did it before the worship service) that he called.

Something was wrong with the car, apparently it acted weird and then just quit. It turns out he didn’t have any oil in it. That cost us a whole new engine.

The car acted weird and then it just quit. Because he neglected to do all the things needed to make it run properly, it cost him. You neglect anything and someone or something will end up suffering for it. You don’t water the plants and they will die, you don’t discipline your children and they will grow up thinking there are no rules in a world that is run by rules and they will suffer, you don’t take care of your car like you should and it will die an early death. Neglect most anything and it will eventually suffer.

Unfortunately, today many people are suffering because of neglect, even many people in the church. They neglect to build themselves up through the Word of God and it slowly kills their faith. Their spiritual neglect eventually catches up with them and they find themselves depending more and more on a world that doesn’t have the answers.

It’s not that they don’t believe, at least a little. It’s not that they don’t know that prayer helps. It’s not like they don’t know that coming to church can build you up. It’s just that they neglect to do such things and all those habits they used to do to strengthen their faith slowly end and their relationship with Christ suffers.

I guess you could say that the church is the place where we come to get the oil in the crankshaft of our lives. If we neglect it, we’ll start to act differently and eventually our faith will fade away.

Come to church every week and your faith will be strengthened, the matters of the heart will be reinforced, and your relationship with God will be intensified. Worship is a time for experiencing an intimacy with your Savior. It should help you cope in a world by giving you the hope that the world cannot.

I believe that’s why Jesus took those three disciples with Him onto the mountain where they could see His glory shown. He needed them to be strong, especially now that His ministry was going to be questioned and tested by the Pharisees and scribes. He wanted them to have their own mountain top experience so that, when times would be tough, their faith in Christ would sustain them.

Many of us experience our own spiritual mountaintop experience now and again. It’s a time when the light bulb goes on and the glory of Christ starts shining through those places in our lives that had once been darkened by neglect and confusion. It’s at times like these that it’s easy to sustain a loving faith in Christ.

But mountaintop experiences never last for long. Eventually we will find ourselves in the valleys of life with only our faith in God to sustain us. Even the greatest of these “mountaintop” experiences are temporary as we find that our faith life is more a journey then a stopping place and on these journey’s we need sustenance to get us through.

It is therefore important for us to take those things we learn in our own mountain top experiences with Christ along with us for the journeys we take into the valleys of our lives. Daily getting into God’s Word, continual prayer, faithful worship, and unending servant hood give you the fuel you will need in your valleys. God wants to breath new life into you every time you come to him in Jesus’ name. He asks us to do what needs to be done to strengthen our faith until we are blessed enough to have our next mountaintop experience.

Sometimes, especially in the valleys of life, you’ll experience conflict from those who don’t understand. The Pharisees and Scribes of our day will challenge you and test you. Your faith will be attacked and your love for Christ will be mocked. You’ll be questioned about what you believe and why you believe it. And these experiences can either build you up or crush you.

Jesus’ disciples were about to face some serious threats of their own toward their faith in Him. They would have to endure through times of doubt and confusion like all of us. Jesus knew this, so He gave them proof of His glory on the mountaintop.

He knew they needed the kind of experience that would shock and amaze them, so that they might be victors in the battles that were to lie ahead for them. He knew that their own strength would not suffice and that only through the strength they found in Him would they survive.

Anytime we attempt to get close to Jesus, the devil will try to block our path. He is a relentless adversary and He is never content until He convinces us to stop doing those things that strengthen us in Christ. He wants you to find your strength from the world because He knows the world will let you down. He wants you to think that all you need is a Sunday here and there to sustain you because he knows it can’t. He wants to suck the life out of you so that you no longer have the strength you need in the valleys of your lives. Anytime we make a commitment to God so that we might be strengthened or take on any kind of spiritual responsibility so that we might be sustained, the devil will do what he can to stop our growth. That is why it is so vital to do what must be done to enable us to resist the devil and all his attempts to trip us up along the narrow path to heaven.

In his autobiography, Mahatma Gandhi, wrote that during his student days he read the Gospels seriously and considered converting to Christianity.

He believed that in the teachings of Jesus Christ he could find the solution to the caste system that was dividing the people of India, so one Sunday he decided to attend a service at a nearby church and to talk to the minister about becoming a Christian. When he entered the sanctuary, however, the usher refused to give him a seat and suggested that he worship with his own people.

Gandhi left the church and never returned, “If Christians have caste systems also,” he wrote, “I might as well remain a Hindu.”

The devil lurks in the valleys of our lives waiting for any opening which might separate us from Christ and he uses the weak in faith to stop our growth. To fend him off takes more than an occasional church service. It takes more than only reading your Bible when you find the time. It takes more than helping your neighbor only once in a great while. It takes constant devotion and worship. It takes continual prayer and meditation. It takes spiritual work.

Every pastor wonders how they might give their people that same mountain top experience over and over again. Many have burned themselves out trying to show their people the glory of God through the Word. What too many don’t realize is that they can’t do it on their own. If the disciples had not experienced the transfiguration, it would have done them no good.

It required their participation to make it a mountaintop experience. It required their faith to understand the greatness of what they were experiencing.

The Lord has so many wonders waiting for you. He longs to show you even greater things. He wants you to experience His glory so that you might be able to face the challenges that life will present you, but if you are unwilling to surrender your lives to His leading then you will miss your own mountaintop encounter with Christ.

But why must we be persistent you ask. It’s because the devil is that good. Through consistent worship, steady service, unswerving faith, unfailing devotion and constant prayer, we can build ourselves up to a point where the devil’s arrows can no longer penetrate.

Behind the scenes of an Arizona circus, Bobb Biehl started chatting with a man who trains animals for Hollywood movies: “How is it that you can stake down a ten ton elephant with the same size stake that you use for this little fellow?” He asked, pointing to a baby elephant who weighed three hundred pounds. “It’s easy….” The trainer said, “When they are babies, we stake them down. They try to tug away from the stake maybe ten thousand times before they realize that they can’t possibly get away. At that point, their elephant memory takes over and they remember for the rest of their lives that they can’t get away from the stake.”

Now, I’m not trying to compare you to an elephant but the idea is there. Through constant devotion to God, our faith becomes who we are and our mountaintop experiences become more frequent. Through a committed plan of Bible study, prayer, church attendance and servant hood, our faith becomes habit. It’s not brain washing because we always have the freedom to fall away. It takes discipline to go from one mountaintop experience to the next.

 

I hope you are truly listening to what God is telling you today because He has some amazing things planned for your life, important things, important enough that He would sacrifice His only Son on a cross so that you might have them. But it means that you must be willing to be there to hear the lessons and the guidance He is willing to give. It means that you must be prepared to climb some mountains if you want to see Hs glory.

Life is a complicated thing. It requires a lot and it’s always harder then it seems, but God has a mountain top experience waiting for you so that the struggle might not be so great. It’s going to take some effort on your part but it’s always worth the climb. The question is, are you willing to do what it takes.

Whether it’s you or someone you know, maybe someone who should be here today and is not, I urge you to do what it takes to get yourself or even someone else in the line to the mountaintop. God will be with you every step of the way. Amen.

 

 

Bible Study Questions – Mark 9:2-9

Bible Study Questions – Mark 9:2-9

Why is this event so important?

Why do you suppose Jesus permits His disciples to witness His transfiguration at this point in His ministry? Mark 8:31

Why was this a significant time in Jesus’ ministry?

Why do you think the disciples experienced a combination of joy and terror as they witnessed Jesus’ transfiguration?

Should we describe the Transfiguration as a miracle?

Why, do you suppose, Jesus only takes the three, Peter, James & John? Exodus 24:1;           Matthew 26:36-38; Mark 5:35-43, 13:3; Luke 22:8

What is the significance of the presence of Elijah and Moses with Jesus on the mount?

 

What was special about their last days on earth? Exodus 34:4-7; 2 Kings 2:9-12
What’s the significance of going up a high mountain? Exodus 24:9-16; 1 Kings 19:9-13

 

What’s the significance of the color and appearance of the clothing? Exodus 34:2, 29-35;   Psalm 50:2; Daniel 7:9-14

 

Why does Peter suggest 3 booths? Why are 3 booths not appropriate?

 

What is the significance of the cloud? Revisit Exodus 24:16

 

How is the tri-une God represented in this part of Scripture?

 

In verse 7 God’s voice is heard for a second time in Mark’s Gospel, the first being in 1:11. What purposes are accomplished by God’s affirmation here?
Why did the Father say “listen to Him” (and not “believe in Him” or something similar)?

 

How might this powerful story persuade us to “listen to him?”

 

Have you ever been in a situation where you just didn’t know what to do or say so you started making suggestions to get beyond the uncomfortable moment? Is that what Peter was doing?

 

Why was the transfiguration important to the early church? What does it say to you today?

“Change Can Be Good”

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our father…

Please pray with me…

When I worked for Thrivent, my district manager’s name was Scott. He got that position in large part because he knew how to sell. He was a top producer for many years and he taught a lot of people how to make a lot of money by working hard and by working honestly. His favorite saying went like this, “If you always do the same things you’ve always done you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” What he was saying is that there comes a time in every career when things need to be changed. What works one day might not work the next and you must always be looking at the world around you to know how you can change to meet its needs.

The life in any organization is much the same. To meet the needs of a contemporary society, you have to evolve. What worked back in 1970, 1980, 1990 and even into the 2000’s might not work as well today. A kind of constant transformation is needed to keep up with our constantly changing times. This is hard for us Lutherans.

We remember back to our childhood and the kind of worship we did and it makes us yearn for earlier times when life seemed easier. Many Lutherans don’t want to see change because they think that when you change, you are selling out a little bit to meet the culture.

It’s a common mistake we make to think that all we have to do is open our doors and the unchurched will eventually come. It’s also a mistake to think that the outside world will enjoy worshipping in the same style we have worshipped for decades.

But there is also a mistake made on the extreme opposite. If you look at many of today’s churches, you will find that they have changed so much that it can’t even be considered worship anymore. Gone are the liturgies, the creeds we live by and the prayers that we pray. They see our liturgy as boring and do away with it altogether for the sake of entertainment. In effect, they have lost what I think is a vital part of worship, its traditions and its convictions. In these new churches you’re much less likely to hear that you are a poor miserable sinner in need of repentance and you are even more likely to miss a public sharing of that guilt and it’s absolution through Christ. In an effort to remain relevant they have turned church into a Jesus love fest complete with big bands and big stages. Worship has been sacrificed for praise.

Now, I’m all for praise and I certainly want to share the amazing news of Christ’s love, but it has its place. There is so much more to the story of our relationship with God. It’s much more complex than it is being made out to be.

 

So, what is needed is change without having to sacrifice those things we hold dear. But change is harder when you look and see what it has done to the spiritual landscape of America. The trick is how to remain culturally relevant without having to ransom those things that have worked for thousands of years. How do we remain biblically sound yet socially appealing. How do we keep up with the times without forfeiting what sets us apart from the crowd.

I am well aware that a sermon on change is one that makes some of you uncomfortable. I am also aware that when I talk about becoming culturally relevant that it brings with it visions of slowly evolving into something we are trying to avoid. So I want to assure you that I am not talking about becoming politically correct or morally non-judgmental. I am not talking about watering down the Law and Gospel message or anything of that nature because there are certain things that should never change. Paul said in our Epistle lesson, “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel.” Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

In a world of constant change, it’s nice to know that some things will always remain the same.

Paul told Titus in the first chapter of his letter to him that “He must hold firm to the trustworthy Word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” (Titus 1:9)

The Word does not change, Christ’s demands do not change, The need for repentance and forgiveness does not change, God’s plan of salvation through Christ will not change and anyone who attempts to change it or water it down to serve their own purposes or take it away from our pulpits and Sunday School rooms will be dealt with severely by God. Some things should always remain the same and we thank God that He remains committed to His plans for us.

But as some things will never change, other things do. As we grow older we also grow wiser and more mature, well, most of us anyway. We change physically also. I seem to droop more than I used to and I can’t eat things I once loved because they do terrible things to my digestive system. Someone once said, “There are four signs you’re getting older: bulges, bifocals, bridges and baldness.”

Ethnically, our American landscape is changing as we become less and less Caucasian and by 2050, it will only be half Caucasian.

With this kind of change comes a need to do things differently in the church to meet the ever-evolving needs outside its walls. Women are working more now, kids are growing up faster, dads are even more absent from their children’s lives as they struggle to keep up with the Jones’s. The church must adapt.

God wants to breath new life into His church but sometimes the people of the church can be His biggest obstacle. Now, I hope none of you think I am against tradition because I am not. Traditions are essential and have become traditions, in part, because they have been ordained by God. Tradition values the past and the way God has moved His people throughout history. Traditions are a way to embrace God both now and into the future. But we don’t want tradition to become a trap, something that keeps Christ in a box.

When we read Scripture we read of a “new song” a “new heaven and a new earth” “new wine” “and new wine skins” “new life” “a new covenant” “new man” and new commands. Our God is a God of change and we must not keep Him in some sort of restraint as if change were a sin.

So how do we meet the challenge of change with the need to keep some things the same? How do we minister to the culture without compromising Christ’s message?

How do we keep the death of our Savior relevant without changing Him into something He is not? How do we keep our spiritual glasses on without getting caught up in a worldview that focuses on ourselves?

We all have a way that we view the world. What we must not do is compromise what we have been taught by changing to meet what the world finds sacred. We must always hold a biblical view of things no matter the pressure we face to evolve in our beliefs.

We must be willing to tell the same message using different methods. The Pharisees were upset with Jesus because He worked on the Sabbath and because His disciples didn’t fast when they should. His response can be found in Mark 2:21-22. No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for (new) wineskins.”

The old Jewish system had become incompatible with Christ’s new message. Jesus was questioned over and over about His methodology but His answer was always the same, “I came to save the lost.” He did this by presenting the truth to a culture much different than that of the Sanhedrin in a way they could understand and relate to.

The message was the same as it had always been but Christ brought with Him a new way of presenting it.

And sometimes that calls us to be more creative in how we do things. Psalm 149:1 says, “Praise the Lord, sing to the Lord a new song, and His praise in the congregation of the saints.”

Over the last few months, I have been meeting with a couple of the most amazing musicians I have ever known, to see what we might be able to do in the way of worship. How can we bring the beauty out of the liturgy.

What we are starting to develop is very exciting. We are discovering new ways to use music in the worship service which could transform many of the ways we do things. Nothing is being sacrificed, in fact it is our focus not to change for the sake of change. Our focus is to make what we are doing even more effective both to the longtime member and the guest here for the first time. “If we always do what we have always done we’ll always get what we’ve always got.” God calls us to do more and not to be satisfied with the status quo. He wants to breath new life into our worship without us having to ransom what we know to be true.

God wants His church to sing a new song.

 

This does not mean we can’t continue to sing the old hymns because, frankly, they still teach much better than any contemporary song I have heard, but neither does it mean that we should shut the door on new ways to sing them. It doesn’t mean we get rid of the organ, but maybe it means we enhance the organ by adding more variety. This is not an either/or it is a both/and.

And finally, if we are to meet the challenge of ministering to the culture without compromising the message we must practice the art of becoming. Paul said in our Epistle lesson, “To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the Law of Christ) that I might win those under the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the Gospel, that I might share with them in its blessings.”

What Paul is saying is that to reach some people, you need to adapt. To follow his example is not easy because it’s not something that comes naturally to us. We can only hope to adapt if we are committed to adapting. There are too many people who remain lost for us to think that things are somehow different today than they were in Paul’s day.

We are not talking of compromising on Biblical truth but about being flexible in our approach to evangelism and ministry.

In verse 19 Paul said that He was free from all, that is, he is not obligated to do something just because that’s the way it has always been done. He had been set free in Christ and His only obligation was to Him. But Paul made himself a servant to all so that he could reach the lost, so that he might win more for Christ.

In 1865, an editorial in the Boston Post read, “Well-informed people know it is impossible to transmit their voices over wires and even if it were possible the thing would not have practical value.” In 1897 Lord Kelvin sais, “radio has no future.” Thomas Watson, Chairman of IBM in 1943 said, “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” And Ken Olsen, President of Digital Equipment Corporation stated in 1977, “There is no reason why anyone would want a computer in his home.” When railroads were first introduced to the U.S., some folks feared that they’d be the downfall of the nation! Here’s an excerpt from a letter to then President Jackson dated Jan. 31st 1829, “As you may know Mr. President, ‘railroad’ carriages are pulled at the enormous speed of 15 miles per hour by ‘engines’ which, in addition to endangering life and limb of passengers, roar and snort their way through the countryside, setting fire to crops, scaring the livestock and frightening women and children. The Almighty certainly never intended that people should travel at such breakneck speed.

Grady Nutt of Hee Haw fame once said, “A man bought a new radio, brought it home, placed it on the refrigerator, plugged it in, turned it to WSM in Nashville (Home of the Grand Old Opry), and then pulled all the knobs off. He had already tuned in all he ever wanted or expected to hear.”

 

Our churches are in danger in danger because they refuse to look at change as something that could be positive. They expect that what has been will still be. While we would all wish that were true, it just isn’t. Changes will continue to happen in the world and if the church is to continue to make positive changes within it we must adapt to match a changing need. That does not mean compromise at all, it simply means we do the same things differently sometimes.

As a church here at Redeemer who holds the uncompromising and unchanging message that salvation that was won for us by Christ can only be attained through Him, let us not make the same mistake that the examples before us have shown. Our culture is radically changing before our very eyes, let’s be ready for it with the Good News of Jesus Christ who faced the cross because God’s love did not change but came to give the world new hope and a new life in Him. Amen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bible Study Questions – 1 Corinthians 9:16-27

Bible Study Questions – 1 Corinthians 9:16-27

How do you think Paul defines freedom?

Many thought Paul was not an Apostle because he didn’t accept payment. How do we know he is an apostle? 1 Corinthians 15:8

What keeps us from fully committing our lives to God’s stewardship?

What necessity is laid upon Paul?

Paul says, “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” What does he mean? Isaiah 45:9; Hosea 7:13; Matthew 23:13-36

Why was Paul willing to make himself a servant to all men?

Explain the use of “free” and “servant” in verse 19?

Who were discussed in verse 20? In what sense were they “under law”?

Was Paul also under the same law? What does this prove?

What are some ways to become weak so that you might save the weak?

Why is Paul willing to do this?

 

Is Paul suggesting that Christians can adopt secular values in order to save those lost in the world?

 

What, then, does it mean to “make myself a slave to everyone” or “become all things to all men” without compromising our Christian values?

 

To what two athletic contests does Paul compare his manner of life? Why?

What is the prize that Paul is trying to obtain by his performance?

 

How does one discipline the body? Verse 27 Why is it important?