Posts Tagged 'Manuscript'

Manuscript Sermon: Life on the Winning Side

Page from the Luke manuscript

Page from the Luke manuscript

Here is yet another transcription manuscript of last Sunday’s sermon. I don’t know that I’ll continue this practice often, but it seems to be a good discipline to use occasionally.

At a conference at a Presbyterian church in Omaha, people were given helium filled balloons and told to release them at some point in the service when they felt like expressing the joy in their hearts. Since they were Presbyterians, they didn’t feel free to say “Hallelujah, Praise the Lord.” All through the service balloons ascended, but when it was over 1/3 of the balloons were unreleased. God plants joy in us, but we need to be willing to let it go. It seems to be an odd thing, but when we release our joy, it comes back to us. Joy reinforces its presence in our lives. We’re going to look at that concept today in Luke chapter 10, verses 17-24.

This portion of Scripture isn’t just about joy; this is about Jesus having given His disciples authority, and reactions to it. During the time of Lent, we have looked at attributes we share with Christ. We’ve looked at sharing in Christ’s suffering, sharing in His forgiveness, His mission, and His sacrifice. Today, we’re looking at sharing in Christ’s authority. When we consider Life on the Winning Side, we ask What Kind of Joy Do You Have? As we read these verses, look for the mention of joy.

To give us some background context, this portion of Luke is where the disciples who had been send out by Jesus to engage in ministry returned from their mission. Luke 10:17-20: “The seventy-two returned with joy and said, ‘Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.’ He replied, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’”

So what kind of joy do you have? The disciple’s joy we see here is Focused on Conduct. The disciples joy is focused on conduct; in verse 17, they say that they return with joy and then describe the process. They were focused on the process: they said, Lord, the demons are subject to us in your name! and how does Jesus respond in the very next verse? “I saw Satan fall from Heaven.” Understand that in the Greek, Jesus is saying this as a past-tense event. Jesus has focused on the finished work; indeed, later in the Gospels when we see Jesus on the cross, and He says a number of statements, His last one, of course, is “it is finished.”

God has a wonderful plan for your life, and that plan, first of all, is to bring you to Him; and to do that, He needed to make a way. Jesus defeated Satan at the cross. The interesting thing is that Satan didn’t know he had lost until the cross happened. The devil got the Savior up on the cross and thought he had won. We can almost hear him chortling with infernal glee; but the devil didn’t realize God’s ultimate plan to rescue us; to ransom us with Jesus’ blood.

Jesus focused on the finished work; He knew from the beginning of creation what the finished work would be. The main point for us is to overcome the power of the enemy through Christ. Jesus said, “I give you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and overcome all the power of the enemy nothing will harm you.” We are protected from the Adversary.

This is not a guarantee that we will never bang her elbow or scrape our knee. This is not talking about bodily harm; this is saying that if you have trusted in Christ, you can go into a dangerous situation, and not worry about if you come out of it or not… because you are protected. Our flesh-suits are subject to failure; I recognize that this outward shell that I wear is just a temporary thing. There are going to be times when I suffer in my physical body, but that’s not me. I’m inside this thing; I’m using this thing temporarily. Someday I will slough it off; someday I will put it all aside, and be my real self in the presence of Jesus. Jesus knows this, and He lets us know that we are protected from the attacks of the enemy. The adversary cannot snatch us out of God’s hand; we are protected.

In verse 20, we’re given this encouragement by Jesus: “However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” We don’t need to obsess over spiritual warfare, but instead, hold on to our personal victory. We’ve been rescued; that is our ultimate cause for joy!

However, this does not mean we are to walk through life unprepared. Ephesians chapter 6 talks about the armor of God, and how we are to put it on. We are to carefully fasten about our waist the belt of Truth, and everything hangs on truth. I don’t know if you know this, but with the Roman armor described in Ephesians, the first thing you put on is the tunic of clothes and then over the top of that you put the belt. The belt supports the weight of the weapons and secures the armor; it brings everything together, freeing the soldier to concentrate on the attack.

Truth is our foundational piece to fight against the enemy. We are to take up the shield of Faith with which we can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the enemy. The enemy does not want us to live in joy; he wants us to be as miserable as he is, and is constantly shooting at us, trying to bring us down. Remember, we don’t carry a metaphorical small, round, Gladiator Shield. The shield of Ephesians 6 is the shield from Roman armor: it’s 4 feet high and about two and a half feet wide and it’s curved; it provides protection. This means we put ourselves into our faith as much as we can; notice we’re not hiding from the world; we’re advancing, but we are not without protection – Jesus knows what He’s doing in our lives.

What kind of joy you have? The disciple’s joy was focused on conduct; Jesus’ joy, on the other hand, was Found in Connection. “At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure. All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.’ Then he turned to his disciples and said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.’” (Luke 10:21-24)

Jesus’ joy is found in connection because He is full of joy in the Spirit. Verse 21 shows us that Jesus takes joy in the Father’s work and the Father’s work is found in US. My family watches a television show called “Face Off”; it’s a show about special effects makeup. When making an effects appliance, one of the first stages after design is to get a cast of the model’s head. They take pieces of clay and they smear them all over the cast, so they can start shaping the clay onto the model’s face. They spend quite a long time working that clay to get just the shape they want; they give it form and substance.

I want you to realize that God Our Father is doing that in you. The Old Testament prophets describe us as clay on the potter’s wheel, and that God is shaping us and molding to be exactly what He wants us to be. The book of Romans reminds us that the clay doesn’t get to say to the Potter, “I don’t like this shape you have me into; fix this! I want to be like something else!” No, it is the Father’s work, the Potter’s hand, that gets to shape us to be like He wants us to be. That’s why I pray almost every week, “Lord, shape us to be like Jesus.” We want to cooperate with that process. Lord, I want to be soft and pliable, not hard and stiff and difficult to work with. I’d rather be moldable. Jesus takes joy in this work that the Father is doing.

Understand this piece of theology in verse 22: “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” We know the Son through the Father, because of the choice of the Son. You see, the Son looked at us from before time began – we find this in Ephesians 2:10 – when the Son said, “this one is mine. Do Your work on this one, Father” and the Father gave that one to be like the Son, and in order to bring that one to life – to cooperate with that shaping – the Father and the Son sent the Spirit. The Spirit breathes into us, enlivens us, and allows us to actually take part in the process of our lives being shaped to be like Christ.

The Trinity is doing the work: the Father selects; the Son reveals; the Spirit brings to life. That’s a lot to comprehend. It’s very simple to write down, but the more you think on it, the more complex it gets, because you’ll start to see the scope of everything that God is doing. Verse 23 talks about being blessed; Luke chapter 6 has a condensed version of The Sermon on the Mount. In it, we realized when Jesus says “blessed are you,” it means that God is noticing you and that should make you happy. With that same thought in mind, read how Jesus said, “blessed are the eyes that see what you see.”

When we find joy in the work that God is doing in us, we’re reminded that God notices what we do. Being in a play with a large cast, I’ve seen the work that the actors in the back row put in. They might not be highlighted, but they’re giving everything they’ve got to contribute to the show. I see their work from the wings, and it makes me smile. It’s similar to when a grandparent shows pictures of their new grandbaby; you’re aware that Grandma or Grandpa is very proud of this little one. God sees us like that; He’s proud of us, not because of what we DO, but because of who we ARE: we’re HIS.

Finally, there is a warning found in verse 24, and I want you to make sure we catch it. Jesus says “For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.” The warning here is that sometimes leaders can get lost in the Task and miss the Point. The disciples did this at in verse 17 when they took their joy in the subjection of demons. They missed the point: relationship with God is what makes that authority possible.

All the way back in first Samuel chapter 15, God through the prophet Samuel gives Israel a warning. God had given the soldiers of Israel a command, and they ignored it, preferring to say that they were going to give an extra sacrifice to God instead. The prophet told the people this crucial fact: God wants obedience, not sacrifice. It’s more important for you to actually connect with the heart of God than it is to do all of the right stuff. What God wants is obedience more than sacrifice; He wants relationship more than a well-structured life.

Our joy is found in connection; it’s been said that joy is a byproduct of obedience. Jesus obeyed the Father and He found His joy in that obedience. If we are to exercise Christ’s authority, we need to do the same thing that Jesus did: find our joy in obeying the Father in our lives.

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Manuscript Sermon: The Cost of the Kingdom

Today, I was asked for a copy of the manuscript of the sermon I preached. I don’t usually manuscript my sermons in advance. I study, and then I write an outline from which I preach.

However, I do recognize that some people might prefer a long form manuscript. So, I transcribed the sermon today, and I will post it here for those who might be interested.

Did you know the cost of becoming an American citizen? If you were not born here, the cost on paper is a grand total of $680? Our government has many forms for someone interested in citizenship to fill out, for which they charge $680. According to ABC News.com, additional fees can run into the thousands. Extra costs might include immigration lawyers, not to mention the challenge of waiting. “Applicants can spend years marked by a feeling of lost opportunity and helplessness as they wait for the process to conclude” says Romy Ribitzky, editor for ABC’s Internet news site.

This serves as an indictment of bureaucracy; you fill out a piece of paper work, send it into the government, and in some cases a two-year backlog holds up the processing. Students, you know there are times when you have done homework and the teacher has not processed it immediately. This is the same case. But the good news is that to become a citizen of God’s Kingdom doesn’t require any waiting period. All you need to do is say “I accept You as my Lord” and it is a done deal. You have been stamped; your passport into the Kingdom of Heaven reads “Full Entry”.

Today what we’re going to look at Jesus specific teaching about what it means to be a follower of His. I don’t often ask you to do this, but I’m going to ask you to write the reference for these verses on the front page of your personal Bible so that you can refer back to them; they’re that important. Turn with me to Luke chapter 9; we will look at vs 23 to 27. Once again, I encourage you to write this reference in the front of your personal Bible. You will want to know this, to be able to refer to it, and to share it with others about becoming a citizen of God’s Kingdom.

Jesus asks us: For Kingdom Citizenship, What Will You Give? Luke 9:23 reads, “Then he said to them all: ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.’” Notice there are three components to this work. When I first became a follower of Jesus, I had been taught good solid Lutheran theology: what is the whole duty of man in the Westminster Confession. “To love God and to enjoy Him forever” is the answer; but there is a difference between being a follower of Jesus as opposed to just saying “I am a Christian”. Jesus himself says this is what it takes: “if anyone would come after me” – the original words “come after” mean “if you intend to follow”. This is what it will take; the first component is to deny yourself, and that’s a tough thing for us to do.

We have to ask ourselves, “who benefits from this self-denial?” Having watched my mom listen to Ellery Queen murder mysteries, and having married a woman who loves Agatha Christie novels, I’ve learned that criminal investigative procedure asks “who benefits” as a means of learning about possible motives for behavior. When we ask ourselves “who benefits from my denying myself”, are we just looking around for things that make us unhappy and trying everything possible to stop them? The author H.L. Mencken once wrote that Puritanism was “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.” I don’t believe that Jesus was suggesting that we live a dour, unhappy life.

We have the joy of the Lord in our lives! We have every reason to come before God and to praise him with the harp and the lyre. In Psalm 150, we find that we get to bang on symbols and make a lot of noise. I love Psalm 150. Verses 3 through 5 say to “Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with tambourine and dancing, praise him with the strings and flute, praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals.”

I recognize that God wants us to have a wonderful vibrant relationship with him but understand that it needs to be on His terms. I can’t just pick any particular thing that I want to do and if it is directly against what Scripture says, decide that I’m going to do things my way. I can’t channel the spirit of Frank Sinatra and do it my way; NO – with God, it’s His way or no way.

We are to deny our self, and I think what really makes that work is the recognition that our self, our flesh, is constitutionally opposed to God. God says “come and do this” and our flesh’s automatic response is, “no, I don’t want to do that.” Our flesh is like a precious toddler in the terrible twos: remember those times, parents, where you were trying to teach your toddler a simple thing? Their response was “NO. I wanna do it MY way!” Congratulations: that’s your flesh! Paul describes this in Romans 7 where he says “it was the law that showed me my sin. I would never have known that coveting is wrong if the law had not said, “You must not covet.” But sin used this command to arouse all kinds of covetous desires within me!” Our flesh is like that; we want to do our own thing, so when Jesus says deny yourself, I think what He was getting at is a tendency to let our flesh run away with ourselves. We have to be on guard against that.

The second component we have in this verse is where Jesus says to take up his cross daily. Remember that when He says “take up his cross”, the people to whom He said it are living in Roman occupied territory; if you tick off the Romans bad enough, they will put you on a cross. We have this instrument of torturous death as one of the primary symbols of God’s love for us. Consider that if this took place now, we might have a noose on the wall, or a large hypodermic needle, or four or five rifles from a firing squad in its place; the cross, by every measure, is an instrument of death.

However, there’s something that the Romans did that our society would never consider to do; we would consider this “cruel and unusual punishment.” It would be as if Jesus said “if anyone is going to call himself a disciple he must take up his own rope, tie a noose hanging over the scaffold, and put his head in the loop.” “If anyone would call herself my disciple, she must load the hypodermic needle, selecting the poison that will kill her, and carry it into the chamber.” “If anyone would call themselves my disciple they must load the bullets into the weapons that will be fired.” To carry the cross is to recognize that we need to submit to this process of self death.

We have to admit to God that He is right in His judgment to state that our flesh needs to die. We need to cooperate with Him in making sure our flesh gets put to death; that is an ugly and uncomfortable thing to hear, but it is the truth. God does not force anyone to become His follower; Jesus said “if anyone intends to follow” meaning “look, it’s up to you if you want to follow me or not. I will call you; I will enable you to respond, but you’ve got to take the steps necessary to surrender.” This second step is to die. Notice it says he must take up his cross how often? Daily.

Everyday, we have to be willing to go to God and say, “Kill my SELF.” A song from a Christian band called “Killing My Old Man” came out in 1981. I was traveling with some friends and some parents heard this song and decided that it was awful and terrible, and that their child should never be allowed to listen to that band because they thought the message was advocating murder. I tried to explain that it was about putting your old self to death, but they wouldn’t listen. “No, no, it’s about murder, it’s about death, and it’s awful.” They were were right; it is about murder and it is awful and it is necessary.

Left to our own devices, our flesh will run rampant. Jesus said “if anyone would come after Me he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” That “follow me” phrase means “to accompany”. It means that you need to find what Jesus is doing and go join him in it. To go with Him would be a wonderfully easy thing for us to do if Jesus only ever did the exact same thing everyday all the time. He’s a little bit more complex than that; God does all kinds of amazing things in the world, and it’s up to us to find them and join Him.

Are we going to feed the poor? Yes, we are to feed the poor. Is that all we are to do? By no means. Are we to visit the sick in the hospital? Yes. Is that the only thing we are to do? No. We are to feed the poor, visit the sick, go to prison and visit the prisoner, preach the Good News, look after orphans and widows in distress, and keep ourselves from being polluted by the world.

God is at work in this world in many different ways, and our challenge is to find whatever He’s doing and join Him in it… and let’s be honest, we all have limited capacity. God has infinite capacity, so He can do whatever He wants as often as He wants; we are limited and finite and are bound by the strength of our bodies, and the amount of gas in the tank.

But we do what we can do within our scope of influence. When you go out shopping for your own food, ask yourself if you could pick up a few extra cans of food. In so doing, you are feeding the hungry. If you find yourself in a department store looking for clothes, consider purchasing an extra coat or other clothes or sundries. When you bring those items to your local shelter, you are helping the needy. Do the things that you already do, but extend your scope for the Kingdom’s sake.

If anyone would call himself My disciple he must…” must — not should, not a suggestion, but an imperative that Jesus gives — he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. What will you give?

The second question to consider is like it; What Do You Value? Let’s look at verses 24 and 25: “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?” If you spend all your time and energy guarding your soul — guarding your self — the only thing you have at the end of it is a wasted effort. I’m not saying don’t take care of your bodies; you live in them and you need to take care of them. But if you live your whole life caring only for the tent in which you live, what happens to it at the end of the life cycle? You lay it down.

Consider this: we are eternal people, with a very tiny physical existence at the start of everything. Once we’re done with these tabernacles of earth, Scripture says we lay them down; we don’t use them again, and we go on for the rest of eternity not encased in flesh. So, for us to effect our eternal destiny to look after something that is going to get older and decay and break down over time doesn’t make any sense.

If you let go of your old self for Christ, you gain you your true self. Don’t focus on the things of this world; instead, when you focus on the things of Heaven, that’s what you gain: Heaven! Christian singer Keith Green wrote a song called “I Can’t Wait To Get To Heaven”. On the spoken intro of that song he says, “I know that Jesus Christ is preparing a home for me for 2,000 years. If this world took 6 days, and that home took 2,000 years… this is living in a garbage can compared to what’s going on up there!” Someday… someday – imagine this, we’ll get a version of Warden that smells wonderful all the time! It’ll rain whenever it needs to rain; we won’t have to pay for water circles, and all of our needs will be taken care of because it’s God’s version of this place. Someday… someday…

Verse 25 asks the question: “what good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?” is really asking the question, what do you value? Stuff? Self? Power? Personal validation? Jesus is challenging us to value heaven more than anything else. I recognize the only thing I can take with me into eternity is YOU. Relationships are the only thing that we can take with us into Heaven, so that’s why we build into one another, we speak truth to one another, we sharpen one another, we challenge one another, we love one another.

What would you give? What will you value? To be a part of God’s Kingdom, What Will You Show? Jesus said in verses 26 and 27, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.” Let me challenge you with something; let’s look at Jesus saying “if anyone is ashamed of me and my words”. I want to look at the very idea of shame. The world’s definition of shame is this: that bad feeling that you get when you’re caught doing something wrong. I looked it up in the Merriam-Webster dictionary and other sources to double-check. According to the world, shame is the feeling you get when you’re caught. It’s not doing the bad thing as the bad thing; it’s getting caught doing the bad thing that’s the bad thing! As long as you’re not caught, you can be rotten… but happy! You only feel shame when you’re finally busted.

I think that’s not what Scripture means at all. The Bible definition of shame is the recognition that you are wrong. God has a wonderful and amazing plan for our life and yet we often think about this amazing plan and say, “nope! Don’t want THAT. I’m going THIS way instead!” And yet, we often choose our way instead of God’s Way, which is spelled out so wonderfully clearly and in loving language. Shame is the recognition that we are wrong. That doesn’t mean that you are innately bad and you can’t be ever do the good thing; that’s not true. What’s the old saying? Even a blind pig finds a truffle once in awhile. It’s interesting to see how awful people can turn around and look after other awful people. Our tendency as awful people is to look at the occasional bright good thing we you do, and say, “see? I’m not so bad!”

Yes, we are. We are so bad. THAT is our shame. But thanks be to God, He doesn’t leave us like that. He loves us in spite of that. He loves us before we recognize how bad off we are, and says, “this one is Mine. You belong to Me. I will bring you out; I will clean you up; I will declare you My own; I will woo you as a husband woos his young bride.”

If we think that lifting up Jesus’ word in our lives is a wrong thing, something of which we should be ashamed, then Jesus will agree with us, and leave us to our own SELF-ish devices. Look carefully at the Scripture: “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”

Look at the challenge of verse 27: “I tell you the truth some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.” I don’t think this is necessarily referring to the Second Advent. In light of Acts 1, it could be just a literal reference. However, I think this also applies to us here and now as well.

Some people are never ever going to let go of their own self righteousness; they are convinced that they are good enough, smart enough, and by golly, people like them and that’s sufficient for them. They will insist upon setting their own ultimate standard for behavior and attitude; they say, “I am my own moral compass and I know what is right for me, and so therefore I’m going to do whatever I want, and as long as I am true to my own set of values, then everything is fine and hunky dory.” That’s not true but that’s what is believed.

Jesus reminds us some people, faced with this life of flesh, will let go of its controlling nature, and instead become citizens in the Kingdom of God. When we recognize our self doesn’t draw us to righteousness, we’ve got to let it go. When we let go, we win; we don’t lose, we win! We gain eternal life: I John 5:11 and 12 says: “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” And verse 13 says, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” We don’t have to guess, or hope, or pray, or wonder, because God has made an exchange: my old dead life for the new one He wants to give. The only election that matters right now is God’s election of you to belong to Him.


Pastor Ed Backell

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