Monday, November 19, 2012

David Was Thankful - I Chron. 16:1-6

When you got to visit a new doctor, the first thing he usually asks is, “So…what brings you in today?”  I want to ask the same question.  What brings you to church today?  Why are you here this morning?

The ultimate reason why we come to church is to worship God.  If you can’t say that is the main reason you are here, then maybe you need to reassess your motives. I’m reminded of the old Dennis the Menace cartoon where Dennis and his parents are leaving church and the pastor is at the back door shaking hands.  Dennis gets up to him and says, “Thanks pastor.  Not a bad show for a nickel.” 

But there are any number of reasons why we come here to worship.  It may be because you just love God and want to please him.  Maybe you are broken-hearted today and know that with a close walk with the Lord, joy comes in the morning.  Maybe you need wisdom and have come for the prayer and closeness that comes with worship.  Maybe you have a lot for which to be thankful and you want to worship while telling the Lord how grateful you are for his protection and provision; his mercy and grace; his power and love, forgiveness, or just His presence!

That’s a great reason to worship.  When we see who we really are in the light of Who He really is then you can’t help but be thankful and you can’t help but want to worship Him.  You can’t help but be thankful for God’s healing presence in your life and in the life of this church.

Do you feel God’s presence here?  I do.  I don’t feel Him physically.  I have never audibly heard His voice.  I have never seen Him here with my eyes or like some people who have seen Him in a painting, an oil spot or a grilled cheese sandwich.  But I feel the presence of God here in a real way.  Especially when others are here as it says that when 2 or more are gathered in My name, I am there also, but even on a Tuesday morning by myself I feel a holiness about this place; a feeling that this place is special and set apart.

And when you know and feel that God is present, that should make you very thankful and that thankfulness should impact your worship.  It did for David in the Old Testament.  In I Chronicles chapter 16 David is thankful and rejoicing in the fact that God is with him and the nation of Israel in a real way.  And it all revolved around the Ark of the Covenant.

Now, as 21st century believers it is hard for us to appreciate the significance of the Ark.  I mean it’s just a box with a few trinkets in it, right?  That “box” was significant enough to have wars fought over it.  It was significant enough that many lives were lost because of it, some of those lives were lost because the person only touched the Ark.  It contained the stone tablets of the 10 Commandments, Aaron’s rod that had budded and a jar of manna; all significant reminders of how God had provided and protected the nation of Israel.

Let’s look at I Chronicles 16:1-6 and see that David was thankful and because he was thankful, it impacted his worship. 

16 They brought the ark of God and set it inside the tent that David had pitched for it, and they presented burnt offerings and fellowship offerings before God. 2 After David had finished sacrificing the burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord. 3 Then he gave a loaf of bread, a cake of dates and a cake of raisins to each Israelite man and woman.

4 He appointed some of the Levites to minister before the ark of the Lord, to extol,[a] thank, and praise the Lord, the God of Israel: 5 Asaph was the chief, and next to him in rank were Zechariah, then Jaaziel,[b] Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Mattithiah, Eliab, Benaiah, Obed-Edom and Jeiel. They were to play the lyres and harps, Asaph was to sound the cymbals, 6 and Benaiah and Jahaziel the priests were to blow the trumpets regularly before the ark of the covenant of God.


I’m sure some of those guys have their feelings hurt now because of how I pronounced their names but that is not the important part of the passage.  The important things to see here are that David’s thankfulness to God for His presence is reflected in David’s worship.  That Ark is representative of God’s presence in a somewhat similar way that this building is representative of His presence.  We know that God does not restrict Himself to living only in this structure.  God is everywhere.  He lives in us.  His Spirit guides us.  We have a relationship with His Son and for that we are thankful.

Similarly, David and the other Israelites knew that God didn’t restrict Himself to living in that Ark but in a very real way, it symbolized God Himself including the character of God to protect and provide, to show mercy and justice and to bring peace.  And so David rejoiced to have the Ark back where it is supposed to be.  In the previous chapter it says that he danced with all his might in front of the Ark.  I doubt it was Saturday Night Fever-style dancing.  He was just excited to worship and it manifested itself physically.

I have a question I want you to answer.  What is it about worship that excites you?  Is it just something you do out of habit or is there some aspect of your worship of God that still excites you?  David was so excited that it manifested itself physically in the previous chapter but in our passage today there are 3 ways that David’s thankfulness impacted his worship.

1)      It impacted his offerings.

2)      It impacted his prayer.

3)      It impacted his music.

And it should do the same for us today.  It says that David sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings to God.  The burnt offering signified their total devotion to God.  With these they were saying that all they have belongs to God and He can do with it as He chooses.  They were completely dedicated to God and showed Him through their burnt offerings.  Does that sound like you?  Is your whole life totally dedicated to God?  Have you told Him that?  This is the same kind of sacrifice referred to in Romans 12:1 where it says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”

Let’s take time to do that right now.  Let’s bow our heads and close our eyes and just tell God that we are offering ourselves and everything we have as a burnt offering to Him to use as He sees fit.  What part of your life are you not letting God have?  He knows.  You know it.  Stop being stiff-necked and give it to Him in faith and with thankfulness.

Now the fellowship offering was a little bit different.  It was a voluntary act of sacrifice that was shared with the others in the temple at the time of worship.  They didn’t burn it up.  From what I understand they basically cooked it and ate it right there with everybody sharing in the sacrifice.  Well, things are different nowadays…but not completely.  We’re not going to have a barbeque but I am going to ask you to do something that some might consider to be a sacrifice and that is I want you to get up and share with one person a reason that you have to be thankful for them.  Tell just one person but make sure everybody gets told something.  Don’t make it up.  If nothing else be thankful that they are here.  Go for it.

Next we see in verse 4 that David assigns some of the priests to pray for specific things in regard to their thanksgiving.  Not only did David’s thankfulness impact his offering but it also impacted his prayer.  It says that they made petition, they gave thanks and they praised the Lord in their prayer.  So, what’s the difference in all those?  To petition is obviously to make a request of God; to ask Him for something.  Hebrews 4:16 says, Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

It also says that they gave thanks to God.  Several times in David’s beautiful prayer in this same chapter he gives thanks to God.  In verse 8 he says, Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done.  In verse 34 he says, “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.”

And then it also says they praised God the God of Israel.  The difference in this and giving thanks to God is that in giving thanks to God they were thanking Him for what He had done.  Here they are thanking Him for Who He is and how He works.  Let’s do all of that right now.  Let’s ask God to meet our needs but also thank Him for what He has done and for Who He is.  Jesus said my house will be a house of prayer.  How appropriate it is for us in our thanksgiving to praise Him in prayer as a church.

So we have seen that David’s thankfulness impacted his worship through his offerings and his prayer.  Lastly we see that his thankfulness impacted his worship through music.  In verses 5 and 6 we see guys with impossible to pronounce names playing all kinds of instruments.  You might say they had a “blended service”.  They had lyres, harps, cymbals and trumpets.  I can’t imagine what that sounded like but there is no doubt it was a joyful noise. 

There is something about music that brings back memories like nothing else.  You can hear a song on the radio and think immediately of somebody you haven’t thought of in years.  Music is powerful and it expresses our feelings like plain words just can’t.  Do you realize that we only have one more worship service in this building?  One more Sunday morning.  And the last few weeks have been tough on some of us.  Satan has been working overtime to distract us and get us off course and I don’t want our last memories of this place to be anything but happy and thankful.

Since we don’t have any lyres or harps or trumpets let’s do something for just a few minutes that we often do at Lake Bridgeport.  Let’s sing a couple of our favorite hymns.  Let’s sing some songs of thanks and praise.

Today’s worship service has been a little different.  I know I broke all the rules.  You are not supposed to get up and have fun during worship.  You’re supposed to pray only at certain times and only sing before and after the sermon.  But if we are guilty of anything it is of being thankful in our worship in a biblical way.  That’s how my friend David did it so I’m pretty sure it will work for us.  And I hope you got what you came here for.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Joseph Was Thankful - Genesis 50:15-21

A little boy was asked by his father to say grace at the table.  While the rest of the family waited, the little boy eyed every dish of food his mother had prepared.  After the examination, he bowed his head and honestly prayed, “Lord, I don’t like the looks of it, but I thank you for it and I’ll eat it anyway.  Amen.”

Have you ever felt like that?  You know you should be thankful but it’s not really what you want and yet you make the choice to be thankful anyway.  That little boy was being pretty mature.  His mother may not have appreciated it but I believe God did.  Thankfulness is a sign of maturity.  Babies are not thankful to their mothers for changing their diapers and giving them food and a warm bed.  But nobody expects that from a baby.  But as we mature, expectations change.

Because of the holiday Thanksgiving, November is a natural month to talk about being thankful.  And so for the next 3 Sundays, I would like to look at 3 different biblical characters that were thankful.  Now, some of you may hear that and think that a whole 3-sermon series is not really necessary since we are all thankful.  I mean, we talked about it just this morning.  Everybody is thankful to some degree or another, right?

And maybe that’s true but at the same time, I believe it is time well spent to see what true thankfulness looks like and how it manifests itself in our lives.  Webster defines it as “grateful and appreciative”.  That’s it.  But I am afraid that there is more to it than that, at least from God’s perspective.  Maybe it is just the depth of your gratitude that is the difference.

If you came to me and said, “Pastor, here are the keys to that new yellow Corvette ZR1 convertible you have always wanted. I hope you like the leather seats and engine upgrade. We just wanted to show you how much we love and appreciate you.” And if I grabbed the keys and walked off toward the car and said, “Thanks” over my shoulder, how would you feel?  I mean, I met the qualification for being thankful at least according to Webster.  But you would tell everybody about what an ungrateful and unappreciative pastor you have!

At Christmas time people can be so sensitive.  Have you ever opened a present and not shown quite enough gratitude? “I’ll just take it back if you don’t like it.  Don’t worry about it.  I picked it out just for you knowing how much you like sweaters with pictures of squids on them but I’ll take it back and stand in line for 2 hours and just bring you the money so you can go waste it on something stupid.  Don’t worry about me.”  Good grief.

At the same time, nobody wants you to drum up or manufacture or fake your gratitude, especially God.  He wants you to feel and show true thankfulness and we do that by wrapping our brains around what all He has given and the price that He paid.  That changes everything about our attitude of gratitude when we realize that.  But over the next 3 weeks, I want us to see what thankfulness looks like when it truly manifests itself in our lives.

Let’s do that today by looking at an interesting and unique character from the Old Testament in Genesis chapter 50, verses 15-21.  Joseph may not be the person in the Bible that most people think about when they think of characters who are grateful and appreciative.  Joseph may be the person you think about when you think of people who have gotten a raw deal from God.

You know the story of Joseph.  As a young man he was sold into slavery by his brothers.  He spent years and years in jail for crimes he didn’t commit.  He had everything taken away from him on more than one occasion.  He was forgotten, abandoned, lied about and yet while we know that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, there is no record in the Bible of Joseph ever doing anything worse than being a little arrogant as a youngster.  And yet, Joseph was thankful.  Let’s see it in Genesis 50:15-21.

15 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?” 16 So they sent word to Joseph, saying, “Your father left these instructions before he died: 17 ‘This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.” When their message came to him, Joseph wept.18 His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. “We are your slaves,” they said.19 But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 21 So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.

I got a little creative this week and added a bulletin insert on which you can take notes and follow along.  I hope it helps.  I can’t say I will continue to do it every week but we will see.  And we all know that a good sermon has 3 points and a poem and this one has 6 points and no poem so hopefully it will be twice as good and not twice as long, huh?

I want you to look at verse 20 once again.  That is a sentence that can only be said by a mature person who is thankful.  He is not saying it didn’t happen or that it didn’t hurt.  He is not saying that there was a misunderstanding nor is he saying it was his fault.  He is not pretending to accept part of the blame to make them feel better.  Joseph says it like it is.  “You wanted to harm me…”

So, now he has stated the facts.  The next thing that comes out of his mouth is the important stuff.  Whatever he says next will show how he feels and what is about to happen to his family.  He has all the right to finish that phrase with a death sentence or a hanging or at least a punch in the face and we would know that Joseph had not forgiven nor was he thankful for how it turned out.

Instead we see that Joseph was a forgiving person, which is in itself a sign of thankfulness, but he also sees the big picture and that makes Joseph very thankful.  “But God intended it for good…”

If I were to ask you this morning if you are a thankful person, I am quite sure that almost everybody would say yes.  And as we discussed earlier, depth of thankfulness becomes an issue.  But for some others, timing is the issue.  I was thankful yesterday because such and such happened but not so much today.  I will be thankful tomorrow when it rains but today I wouldn’t say I’m as thankful. 

Looking at the life of Joseph in Genesis 50, we can see that thankfulness has nothing to do with timing.  In fact, in this passage, we see that Joseph has his brothers right where he wants them if he wanted to get revenge.  He remembers what happened.  They remember what happened.  Nobody has forgotten.  It is interesting what they tell Joseph.  I don’t believe for a minute that their father left them instructions telling them to tell Joseph to forgive them.  That was just the brothers feeling guilty and trying to save their necks.

And I believe that Joseph sees this too and that is why he wept in verse 17.  You see, for Joseph, thankfulness is not dependent on the past.  For Joseph, the past was a harsh memory.  Nothing could completely erase those years of imprisonment.  Nothing could change the fact that his brothers had hated him so bad they wanted to kill him.  But Joseph was thankful even in spite of his past and he proved it by not holding the events of the past over their heads.

Joseph was thankful for what God had done and it did not depend on his own difficulties in the past. 

Also, I want you to see that Joseph’s thankfulness is not changed by the present.  In the present situation, Joseph has some options and I can see some pretty unpleasant alternatives for his brothers if Joseph had not been mindful of what God had done.  At this point, Joseph is in the driver’s seat.  He has all the power and the resources to make the lives of his brothers worse than his ever was.

If you had asked Joseph 2 weeks ago if he was thankful, I’m sure he would have honestly said yes but now the proof comes out.  Now in the present, Joseph might have said, “Well, I was thankful but now I’m ready for revenge.  It’s my time now boys!  Bow down before me now and I’ll chop off your heads!”  But we see that Joseph’s thankfulness is not changed by the present.  His thankfulness supersedes his right and ability to be mad and vengeful.

His thankfulness is not dependent on the past nor changed by the present but it is mindful of the future.  He tells his brothers to not be afraid.  “I will provide for you and your children.”  Joseph understands that God has been at work his whole life.  It was not in the way that Joseph had expected and he certainly would not have chosen this path but it is obvious that God has allowed all of the heartache, loneliness and pain so that he would someday be able to provide for his family and so Joseph now does his part to show his thankfulness to God by being mindful of the future of his family.

Now I want us to see how thankfulness manifests itself in our lives.  You can talk about it.  You can say you are thankful.  You can encourage others to be thankful.  You can write long, fascinating books on why and how to be thankful but until it shows up in your life, until it bears bold and bountiful fruit, you are just wasting your breath.

In the life of Joseph, we see 3 ways that thankfulness manifests itself.  The first way is not mentioned with words here in this passage.  Joseph doesn’t say it out loud.  He doesn’t have to.  It is obvious to the brothers and it is obvious to us that Joseph has forgiven his brothers. When we are truly thankful, it will manifest itself in forgiveness.

I wish I had time to do this subject justice but suffice to say that forgiveness, true forgiveness is difficult.  It doesn’t come easy, we all know that.  It is not our default setting.  But it will show up when we see the big picture.  When we see that God has allowed everything in our lives to happen to make us into who we are supposed to be then we can start to truly forgive people.  Repeat.  He allowed Joseph to be sold, made a slave, slandered, forgotten, and abused to bring him to this point in his life where he can save the lives of his family.  And in doing so, God, not Joseph, gets the glory.

That’s how God works in our lives.  It is probably not going to be how we would have done it but His ways are higher than our ways and in the end, we see it was for our benefit.  That makes you thankful and that will manifest itself in forgiveness.

We also see that in the life of Joseph, thankfulness manifests itself verbally.  Joseph could have stopped with the first part of verse 20 and just said, “You intended to harm me!”  But he continued with, ”…but God intended it for good…”.  He voiced his appreciation for what had happened in his life.

We are very thankful for the veterans in our country and we are grateful all year around.  But today is one of the days when we actually voice our appreciation for what they have done.  If you never tell someone you love them or appreciate them, it’s hard to believe that you really do.  If you never tell your wife that you love her but you feel it in your heart, is that enough?  Probably not.

It’s the same way with God.  When you are thankful for what He has done, it will manifest itself verbally.  And lastly, thankfulness will manifest itself in our lives when all of this comes together and our thankfulness is not diminished by timing, it has been shown in our lives as forgiveness and we verbally express it.  But ultimately, it will manifest itself toward God.

Like Joseph, most of us have had difficulties in this life.  Job said, “Man born of woman is of few days and full of trouble.”  But, also like Joseph, we have a lot to be thankful for.  God knows the trouble you have seen.  Over and over again through Genesis it says this sentence: And God was with Joseph.  God was with him in the well.  He was with him in slavery, in prison, when it was lonely and when it was painful.

God allowed all of that to happen to make him into the man he was supposed to be but to the very end it says God was with him.  And while Joseph was unique in lots of ways, this isn’t one of them.  God promises to be with us in everything we go through; the good times and the bad.  And like Joseph, that should make us thankful to Him.

Monday, November 5, 2012

“A New Church – A New Relationship” – Eph. 5:21-6:9
For some of you, this past week has been pretty stressful. For some of you, this past lifetime has been pretty stressful but while I have lots of concerns about the where’s and how’s of moving our church to Lake Bridgeport, I’m really not stressed about it and I hope you aren’t. I do have a simple test to see if you and your family are stressed, just so you will know. That way you can be working on it.
1. ___ Conversations often begin with "Put the gun down, and then "we can talk."
2. ___ The cat is on Valium.
3. ___ You are trying to get your four-year-old grandson to switch to decaf.
4. ___ No one has time to wait for microwave TV dinners.
5. ___ "Family meetings" are often mediated by law enforcement officials.
6. ___ You have to check your day-planner to see if you can take out the trash.
If that is the way it is at your house, you may have stress in your life. Everybody with a job that requires you to work with people probably makes the joke that this job would be great if it weren’t for all these people. People cause stress. It is universal and for all times. Everybody is busy and everybody gets their nerves in a knot every now and then.
There are libraries full of books and tapes on how to de-stress and how to make the most of your time and how not to let people bother you. These people have some good ideas like get enough sleep, de-clutter your space, set boundaries, be positive, and take time for yourself. Those aren’t bad ideas to try but why is it that even after you do all of those things, somebody can walk up and with one sentence, send your blood pressure through the roof?
I know that we have so many things going right now these days and everything seems to be happening at once and everybody wants your full attention for everything they are doing that you sometimes don’t feel like being Christ-like. Your spouse is getting on your nerves, your boss, your employees, your kids are all acting crazy. Why don’t they listen to you? You know you have the right answer. It’s obvious and yet everybody wants to do something else. Crazy people!
Does that sound like your house, your job, your family…your church? “Ooh, now he’s meddlin’!” Well, the Bible has some wise words for all of us. Imagine that. Our passage this morning is in Ephesians. This is the last of the series on how we as a new church should look like. We have seen that we are to have a new life, a new society, a new standard and this week we will see how we are to have a new relationship.
All of this is found in Ephesians and today we will look at Ephesians 5, verse 21 through chapter 6, verse 9. Read.
When Paul wrote Ephesians, he did not have all of the punctuation we have nor did he put in paragraphs and certainly not the paragraph headings that most of us have in our Bibles and most of the time they are very helpful. But in my Bible, verse 21 is separated from the rest of this and I don’t think it should be.
In fact, verse 21 sums up all of the rest of the passage we are going to look at. Read verse 21. 21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Now, good luck finding that in any of those self-help books. And honestly, I want to stop right there and camp out on that verse because if we can get that right then it will manifest itself in all of our relationships.
If we submit to one another out of reverence for Christ then our relationship with our spouse will honor the Lord. If we can submit to each other out of reverence for Christ then our relationships at home will honor Christ and also for our relationships at work. If we submit to one another out of reverence for Christ then our whole lives will honor Christ.
There is, of course, one small problem. When I say the word “submit” what is your natural reaction? I can almost guarantee you that your first natural reaction was not. “Oh, ok. No problem. That’s easy.” Right? It’s the same problem we had over in chapter 4, verse 2 where it says to be completely humble and gentle, with patience and love. Oh, sure. Want me to give a million dollars away too?
There are at least 3 questions that come up when one considers the prospect of submitting to another person. They are good and natural questions and need to be answered.
1) If I submit to my husband, parents or boss, does that mean that I am inferior to them?
2) If I don’t look out for myself, then who will?
3) What if the person to whom I submit abuses their role?
To answer all 3 of those questions it is helpful to know exactly what that word “submit” actually means. It was originally a Greek military term meaning to arrange in military fashion under the control of a leader. It shows order and purpose. In non-military use it was a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility and carrying a burden. It quite literally means “to put under”. (Strong’s Concordance)
Now, does putting yourself under someone else mean that you are inferior to that person as in question 1? Martin Luther wrote that “we are to sharply distinguish between these two, the office and the person.” As a person, we are all created equally. Since this is a military term, let’s think about how the military operates. Everyone in the military has a rank. Without it, there would be chaos. Nothing would get done.
My uncle is quite a character and evidently always has been. When he joined the army they, of course, sent him to boot camp. He said he was there for only a couple of weeks and they sent another group of young men to the camp to start their basic training. Uncle Bill thought it would be funny to wake the brand new recruits up in the middle of the night and claim he was a sergeant. He made them get dressed and do pushups and even got them out in the yard to do some marching. He screamed at them and told them they were worthless and all the stuff the real sergeant had been screaming at him.
He thought that was real funny until the next day when they figured out what happened and made him stand in front of everybody in camp and salute himself in front of a mirror and order himself to do pushups. True story. See, without order, the military would collapse and so would the church and so would our lives and our relationships. But at the same time, if the lowliest private is trapped behind enemy lines, the military will still do everything possible to get him back because they recognize the value of the man as a person.
John 3:16 says that “God so loved the world…” He died for everybody, not just the famous people or the rich or the ones who make laws. What you have to realize is that part of the definition that says to submit is a voluntary act of putting yourself under another. And what happens when you put yourself under someone? You lift them up. It’s not about being inferior. It is about voluntarily lifting others up out of reverence for Christ.
The second question that might be asked is, “If I don’t look out for myself, then who will?” And it is a shame that this question has to be asked but it’s a natural. If I lift other people up; if I submit myself to others out of reverence for Jesus, then who is going to lift me up and meet my needs?
My first response to that question (and I have several) is that we are not guaranteed to have anybody in our life to meet our needs as we see them. I’m sorry to be blunt but it is just a fact. Ask Paul who is writing this. He spent his whole life lifting others up and lifting Jesus up and there were times in his life when I think we can all agree that his needs as we would define them were not met. You know the passage in II Corinthians 11 where Paul describes his hardships; beaten, shipwrecked, stoned, hungry, thirsty, etc.
But there is something else I want us to see about this verse and that is that it is a command. Paul is not asking. He is not saying, “Hey, it would be nice if you could…” This is a command to submit to each other. And what happens when we are obedient to a command? BOOCOD? There are blessings of obedience and consequences of disobedience.
What happened when Abraham was obedient and left his comfortable home? Blessings. What happened when David was obedient and killed Goliath? Blessings. What happened when Peter was obedient and got out of the boat? Blessings. What happened when FBC Runaway Bay was obedient when we didn’t know how to pay our electric bill? BLESSINGS! When we are obedient to what God tells us to do, God takes care of His children. It may not be how we think it should be done. But He always takes care of us.
Lastly, when you are submissive to others in a church, do you know what happens? What have I said about our attitudes? They are contagious. If you walk into a church where everybody has to have their way, how are you going to act? But when we as a church submit ourselves to each other in reverence for Christ, it starts to catch on. It is not the default attitude for people and so sometimes it may take a while but God sees it and blesses it and pretty soon we are known as a church that doesn’t have stress or division or members talking behind each other’s backs. We are known as a church that has a passion for people and a passion for Jesus which is just how we want to be known.
The last question I want to address today is if I submit to someone, what if they abuse that submission? What if they take advantage of me? This could happen in any one of these roles; as a wife to a husband, a child to a parent or a slave to a master or even right here in the church.
To answer that, we must first see where this authority comes from. It comes from God. God is a God of order and has established certain authority or leadership roles. He tells wives, children and workers to be submissive but the husband, parents and bosses must discern the Lord Himself has given them that authority and it is not to be abused. It is the same with all Christians. We must submit out of reverence for Christ who not only wields the authority but also humbled himself as a servant.
So that submission that we are commanded to give is not unconditional. That authority is not unlimited. The submission required is to God’s authority delegated to human beings. If, therefore, they misuse their God-given authority by commanding what God forbids or forbidding what God commands then our duty to submit no longer holds and to do so would disobey and dishonor God.
So, we see that submission does not make you inferior to the other person. We will be taken care of by God and be blessed when we submit to others and we see that authority is not unconditional. So it should be real easy now that we understand, right? No problem?
I hear you. I do. “Todd, I just can’t do it. I know I should but I just can’t. I’ve been burned before and I just can’t do it.”
As I have told you several times as we have gone through this series…you are exactly right. You can’t do it. No matter how hard you try you will not be able to submit, at least not for long. But when you come to that realization, you are right where you are supposed to be.
You see, the answer is back in verse 18. Let’s go back and read that. Not the part about not getting drunk although those are wise words but the latter part. “Be filled with the Spirit.” Everything past verse 18 supposes that you are filled with the Spirit. You can’t speak to one another with spiritual songs unless you are filled with the Spirit. You can’t submit to your husband for any length of time without being filled with the Spirit and so on for children, workers and members of this church.
Every one of these sermons on Ephesians has hinged on being in Christ; you do it through Christ; you do it out of reverence for Christ. You remember what Paul said earlier about Christ being the cornerstone of the church? You can’t do any of this without Christ being foremost, filling and working through you. It’s not about you. Because when you make it about you there will be stress in your home. There will be stress in your job. There will be stress, disunity and division in this church.
But with Christ and through Christ we can have new relationships with each other and we as a church can have a new relationship with the city of Lake Bridgeport, Wise County and the rest of the world.