Good morning and welcome to Journey church. I’m glad you are here to worship with us before the end of the world comes on Tuesday.
I started to hear about the snow storm on Monday. Snowmagedden 2016!
Just in case though I thought you should be prepared to meet your maker and I thought we should cover what the Bible says about snow. It’s interesting that the bible mentions snow quite a bit.
Most often is is cited as a symbol of clean. Clean as snow. And so, maybe the most famous snow passage that you might have heard before comes from Isaiah 1:18 “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow.
It’s virtually a universal truth that if something dirty, touches something clean, the clean thing gets soiled and becomes dirty. But then one day Jesus shows up – and dirty things that come to him become clean as snow. Jesus reverses the curse of sin. And so we’re here today to worship the one who turned people stained with sin clean again.
But there is one more place where snow is mentioned and I think it’s fascinating and leads right into our lesson for this morning.
Psalm 148 is a beautiful and majestic psalm. A cry for all of the universe to sing praise to God on High. From the sun and moon, twinkling stars, skies above. Let everything created give praise to the Lord. Praise the Lord you creatures of the ocean depths. Fire and Hail and snow and clouds and wind and weather – and here’s the interesting note – they obey Him.
7 Praise the Lord from the earth, you creatures of the ocean depths, 8 fire and hail, snow and clouds, wind and weather that obey him,
This entire psalm is a list of all the entities in the universe that obey God. Mountains and hills and fruit trees and cedars and wild animals and scurrying animals and birds… They obey him because they are part of the Kingdom of heaven. And they are all subjects to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Jesus Christ.
The skies, the vapors, the weather, the angels – all praise the King.
But then the psalm ends with another group… up until now all of these entities willingly submit – they joyfully obey his commands – and then we get to this last group – that when it comes to obeying God – a little shaky at best.
People. Kings and judges and young men and young women and old men and children. This group of people – they are the wild cards.
Born into sin and outside the Kingdom of Heaven – the Kingdom of God’s present reign – we are the rebels. Outside the Kingdom, we exist by default in a Kingdom that the Bible calls the Kingdom of darkness. Where every man or woman and child toils and strains and fights to build our own kingdom, to establish our own throne, to make ourselves the center of the universe around which all things orbit.
Into this fiefdom of darkness comes Jesus. Our savior. Our deliverer. He has come to rescue us and transfer us into the Kingdom where Jesus reigns as our benevolent governor of our lives.
This transfer out of the darkness and into the Kingdom of heaven is immediately available, upon request. It comes through a decision to rely on Jesus as the good shepherd of your life. And you will be granted immediate citizenship in the kingdom of heaven, where you will see and live life in the way God intended it to be lived.
We are not in our fourth week looking at God the way God wants us to see him. Since God is our Father, we dread nothing. Since God is our Shepherd, we lack nothing. Since God is our Savior, we are held captive by nothing.
Today we are going to see that God also wants us to see him as our King. As our Lord. If Jesus is our Lord, we can obey with Confidence and Joy.
Revelation 19 is the chapter in the Bible that describes the second coming of Jesus. And John, who is describing what he sees in this prophecy – describes Jesus and he sees Jesus is wearing a King’s sash and on it is inscribed these words…
Rev 19:16 On his robe at his thigh was written this title: King of all kings and Lord of all lords.
One of the joys I get as a substitute bus driver for the Gretna School system is to hear the conversations of children on the bus. And one phrase I hear quite a bit – Kid A will tell kid B to sit down or be quiet. And the response? You are not the boss of me.
You are not the boss of me! Well let me ask you – Who is the boss of you? And not your job – most of us have a boss at work, but who is the boss of your life? Is there anyone you are willing to say, I’ll do what you say? Who is the boss of you?
Make no mistake – Jesus is the Lord of Lords – and when we place our faith in Him, part of the agreement is that are saying – I believe you are God and as such I will obey you. And since we have seen the price Jesus is willing to pay to rescue us – then we can approach the idea of obeying him with confidence and joy – knowing that he has our best interest in mind.
Now, just a word here to the budding theologians in the room. In the early 1960’s a debate arose within church circles about the nature and process of salvation. And some proposed that there were in fact two phases of becoming a Christian. There was a stage when you accept Jesus as the Savior of your sins. And then later on your receive Jesus as Lord of your life. And the argument went that many people will pray a prayer – like Jesus please come into my heart and cleanse me of my sins. Be my Savior. And the argument was that praying that prayer got you into heaven.
My son and I had a chance to go to a Nebraska Cornhusker game this year and we had tickets and we walked up to the gate and someone with a scanner pointed the laser and then we waited a half second while the computer did it’s thing – and is it going to turn green or red? Green! Okay – come in.
Well the idea was that somehow people got this idea that heaven was like that. And that you needed to be able to turn the scanner green when you got to the gate. And so they scoured the Bible looking for the technical way into heaven.
It was like you got the barcode that scanned you into heaven when you died. You said the right words but you never actually start letting Jesus govern your life. You run your own life. You do what you want to do, until later you get to the point where you say, I’m ready now for Jesus to be more than my savior, I’m ready for him to be my Lord. My master.
This argument was known as Lordship Salvation.
And I believe it did great harm to the faith. Because it taught people that obeying Jesus was like some kind of super Christian thing to do. But Jesus never gave us that kind of option. Jesus didn’t come to earth to put a barcode on us to scan us into heaven. He came to create a new kind of humanity.
Now it is certainly true there is a progressive nature to faith. In other words, you grow. As an apprentice learns and grows in knowledge, a person who decides to follow Jesus learns and grows and makes mistakes. The Theological term for this is ‘sanctification’ – it’s the process of becoming more like Jesus.
But imagine if you were an electrician teaching a young apprentice how to wire a house and the apprentice said, “Thanks for the advice, but I’m not really planning on doing anything you tell me.” Then you as a master electrician would have to conclude that the person in your midst has no real desire to be an electrician. Right?
The same is true for people of faith. A person who says they follow Jesus and refuses to obey him, openly, stubbornly refuses to be willing to change or obey, is not serious about following Jesus. Not even willing to be willing? “I’ll take Christianity light please.”
Matthew 28 is the last chapter in the book of Matthew. And if you were to read it you would find this passage that has been dubbed ‘the Great Commission”. It is Jesus’ standing orders to his church. Jesus’ last words were instructions about what to do now…
And he says it as plainly as possible. Matthew 28:18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples (apprentices) of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
So we have this incredible passage – it begins with the Greatness of God – all authority in heaven and earth is his. It’s all his. And he is commissioning us with a task. Let others know about the availability of the kingdom of Heaven. Make disciples. Make apprentices.
Teach them all the commands. NO! Teach them what? To obey all the commands.
It is the mission of this church to teach you how it is possible to obey all of Jesus’ teachings. It’s not our job to just teach you what he commands. We need to teach you how to obey him.
Why? Why does Jesus ask us to obey him?
The first time I visited Jim at his house, he had this big old beautiful chocolate lab named Boomer. And he would put this dog treat on the dog’s nose and he would say… Wait! No! Obey Boomer! No!!
Meanwhile Boomer is getting all crosseyed and strands of drool is slowly making it’s way to the floor. And all I could think of was this poor dog and what he was thinking. My stupid owner man. Why he gotta do this. Laughing it up.
And then Jim says GO! And boomer would snatch that treat out of midair and Jim would say good dog. Such an obedient dog.
Is that how God treats us? He wants us to obey to remind us of who’s the sheriff? Obey me because I’m the boss! Is God a bully who just demands to have his way?
Here’s the truth, some of you out there feel like that dog when you think about God. You think he’s up there and he’s saying obey me or else I’ll smack you right on the nose!
Most of you. You aren’t going to put up with that kind of God.
And some in here have come to the conclusion that God holds the button to the trap door in heaven that will open up and send you to hell unless you obey and do everything he says! Bad dog! Trap door opens.
And so you have tried to live for God not out of love but out of genuine fear. You think that God can barely stand you and that he’s just looking for a reason to open the trap door and down you go!
So I’d say that’s a pretty lame reason for obedience. Does Jesus seem to you to be so insecure that he needs to bully people to get them to follow him? I mean thousands and thousands of people are racing across a sea to get there when Jesus lands his boat on the other side of the Sea of Galilee? Why? So they can be put down and controlled and threatened and made fearful?
Why do people throng to him? It’s surely not because he threatened them with – you get over to the other side or else!
So there must be another reason why Jesus tells us to obey him…
I suppose God could want us to obey him just because he is God and we aren’t. You ever have any kids in your life ask you that? Junior – take out the trash. Why? Because I told you so you brat! Do not question my genius!
Now technically, that’s a good enough answer, right? And it works for a while on little kids but as the kids get older they start asking for realsies. Why are you asking me to do this? And it’s probably technically right to say, because I told you, but ultimately it becomes an unsatisfactory answer.
So when we ask “Why should I obey” we could get that answer of “Because I told you so, and p.s. I’m God.” But I’ll say that there are other more compelling reasons.
And so here’s the first. Let’s listen to Jesus in Matthew
Wisdom: Matthew 7:24 “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. 25 Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock.
Jesus knows the truth about life and the universe. He is the wisest being in the universe. As the creator of all things, he is the best informed, most intelligent, smartest person who ever lived.
He knows what he is talking about. He created this thing we call life. He knows. Go back and read through Job 38- it’s as close as we’ll ever see to God showboating about what he knows compared to us. He knows everything about your life.
And so, when Jesus tells us that it is best for us to become the kind of people who do not return evil for evil? He knows what he is talking about. That we can be the kind of people who can not strike back in anger when faced with anger? Is he right or not?
And it is a wise person who builds his or her life around his teaching. The wisdom of his teaching will guard us against the travails of life.
We ignore his teaching at our own peril. That’s the second half of this verse. Obeying Jesus leads to wise living. Refusing to obey leads to foolishness and danger.
26 But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. 27 When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”
Second reason to obey him… The proof is in the pudding: And I looked up the origin of that phrase and it started as the proof of the pudding is in the tasting. The idea is that something might look good on the outside, but you don’t know it’s good until you try it.
John 14:21 Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.”
The proof of the pudding is in the tasting. And so the proof of our love of Jesus comes when we obey. When we taste and see that the Lord is good. We put our money where our mouth is.
It’s one thing for us to examine from a distance Jesus teaching in Matthew 6, where Jesus says, ‘when you give to the needy, we ought not make a big deal about it. Do it in secret and your father in heaven, who knows what is done in secret will reward you.’
Oh yes. I’ve examined this teaching and found it to be wise and prudent and virtuous. Okay. Do you ever give to the needy? The proof of the pudding is in the eating.
When Jesus tells us in Matthew 5 to treat those who consider us enemies with love and respect and to pray for those people in our life who irritate and annoy us?
Jolly good teaching Jesus! Supurb analysis old chap, I say! Okay. You planning on doing that any time soon? The proof of the pudding is in the eating.
Any areas in your life where Jesus is handing you a fork? Eat up that teaching. Trust me enough to obey me.
Obedience is the proof that Jesus really is the wisest person ever, the proof that he is the good shepherd, is that I follow him and obey him.
But it’s not easy. And so let’s take a quick look at why it’s not easy for us? Why do we disobey?
We already mentioned that we naturally fight the tendency to want to be the king of our own life. But let me quickly point out two other reasons why we don’t obey – other than just sheer stubborn foolishness.
The first is this. Sometimes we don’t obey because we feel that God is holding out on us. We think there is something good within that sin and that God is holding out on us.
Eve in the garden of Eden was tempted to disobey God by the devil how? He convinced her God was holding out on her. You will have something God doesn’t want to give you if you eat that fruit.
It wasn’t hunger that made Eve disobey. It wasn’t even straight up rebellion. She believed the devil who told her God is holding out on you.
Let me ask you to think about whatever area you are most likely to disobey Jesus in. Is it possible that you have been led to believe that you are missing out on something good? That God is holding out on you?
Maybe you are young and single and you hear the teaching from the Bible to keep the marriage bed pure and to refrain from sexual activity outside of marriage, but you are thinking, I don’t know. Seems like the whole world is sexual and it seems like everyone’s having a good time, why would I save myself for my future spouse? Is God holding out on you?
God’s not holding out on you. And if there’s some area we are being obstinate, we need to ask why. What do we think God is keeping from us?
Secondly, sometimes we disobey because we feel that we have a good excuse to disobey. It’s called rationalizing our sin.
We feel like God would understand it – he’d give me a special dispensation. For instance, there was a time in the Old Testament when the King of Israel, who was named Saul, was given instructions that when he defeated this particularly evil enemy, he was to slaughter all of their sheep and cattle. None were to live.
Yet when Samuel the prophet shows up he hears the sheep – and Saul said, well, I saved the best ones. They were too good to slaughter – I was going to sacrifice them at the temple. God would understand. We got this worked out. I know he told me to do this, but I have a good reason not to obey – see. We got it covered.
And Samuel famously replied that to obey is better than sacrifice. Obedience is the proof of our faith.
And so maybe you have done a pretty good job rationalizing why you are disobeying God. I’ve had my fair share of that. You probably have too. People in complete disobedience tell me “Oh I’ve never been closer to God then I am now.” Really, why because you are disobeying?”
Jesus tells us pretty clearly the dangers of disobeying – Anyone who hears and understands my words and disobeys? Is a foolish person, building their life on a foundation of sand – and the life is in danger of crashing.
So what do I do if this morning the Holy Spirit is convicting you of willful disobedience? Well first you repent of it – you turn away from that disobedience and say Lord, I trust that you know what’s best for me. I’m yours, make me willing to obey you.
And then what we do is we offer ourselves up each morning and we say Lord today I want to be the kind of person who obeys you. Please change me on the inside wo that I naturally and easily, without thinking, obey you.
See, it can’t be through sheer willpower. The change needs to come from the inside. What exactly do we pray to change about us?
Let me give you one word. Pray that the Lord would make you a more loving individual.
See Jesus was asked one day about which command was most important – Jesus said – all of the commands in the Bible can be summed up in these two. Love the Lord your God with ll your heart, soul, mind, body. And – love your neighbor as yourself.
If you are the kind of person on the inside who can love God and love the person next to you, then you will find yourself becoming the kind of person who obeys Jesus naturally and easily.
Jesus is the Lord of Lords and the King of Kings and as the King of our life he expects us to obey him. Always for our good and always for His glory.