This is week two in our Weird series that I got from open.lifechurch.tv. I really like their resources. They are free and very high quality.
1 Peter 2:11-12.
Normal isn’t working. There has to be a better way.
Financially average? Normal marriage? Normal life? Better than normal!
Okay to be different: Not only okay When Spirit directed, WAY BETTER!
WEIRD IS BETTER “…Be holy, because I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:16
hagios (hag’-ee-os); to be pure, to set apart, to be different. Pursue Christ with all of your heart—be different—weird! Goal is not weird—honor God. Remember—no cookie cutter weird—God’s custom weird… ~ No longer go to the parties~ Walk away from gossip ~ No more messing around with girls or guys
~ Pray/thank God meals
~ Live simply, give extrav.
~ Move out of suburbs Cheap, prude, goodie, give so much, not go to bachelor party.
There is CONSTANT PRESSURE TO CONFORM TO THE NORM
1)THE INWARD PRESSURE: THE NEED TO PLEASE.
We want people to like us. Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe. Proverbs 29:25
2)THE OUTWARD PRESSURE: CRITICISM.
Passion for your house has consumed me, and the insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.
10When I weep and fast, they scoff at me.
11When I dress in burlap to show sorrow, they make fun of me.
12I am the favorite topic of town gossip, and all the drunks sing about me. Psalm 69:9-12 NLT “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you… 20If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also…” John 15:18-20
“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven…” Matthew 5:10-12 The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘I am the Lord your God. 3 You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices. Lev 18:1-3 Life and leadership… all the great ones are weird. Jesus criticized for eating with sinners, healing on the Sabbath, “Most are more concerned with looking stupid (fear of people) than we are with acting sinfully (fear of the Lord). Edward T. Welch 10 Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ. Gal 1:10 42 Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved praise from men more than praise from God. John 12:42-43
There are TWO BARRIERS ON THE ROAD TO WEIRD
1)THE INWARD PULL: THE NEED TO PLEASE.
Consumed with the need to please. What will people think? Get rid of my television—wwpt?
Start a ministry to single moms—wwpt?
Minister to foster kids—wwpt?
•Becoming obsessed with what people think—quickest way to forget God what God thinks.
24 Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned. I violated the Lord’s command and your instructions. I was afraid of the people and so I gave in to them. 1 Sam 15:24-25
1)THE OUTWARD PULL: PERSUECTION. Go to church
Don’t have enormous debt
Don’t sleep around
People will call you Weird. they will hate you. They won’t like you. 18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you… 20b If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also… John 15:18-20
Find comfort in persecution! Strangely at home! When you follow Christ fully—you will be persecuted! Not concerned when I’m being persecuted—worry when I’m not. Not being persecuted… Too normal!
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matt 5:10-12 (could stop in middle of 12.)
I CAN’T PLEASE EVERYONE, BUT I CAN PLEASE GOD.
For we speak as messengers approved by God to be entrusted with the Good News. Our purpose is to please God, not people. 1 Thess 2:4 NLT 25 Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe. Prov 29:25 The way to please god is through following Jesus.
That might make us weird in the eyes of the world but in the eyes of God it makes us his Beloved children.
Let us pray
This sermon starts a new series called “WEiRD: Because normal isn’t working” and I got the sermon series from http://open.lifechurch.tv/
Starting next week at 6pm we will be having Bible Study that follows this sermon series but also goes a little more in depth into this whole new idea of following Jesus. It is free! It is only six weeks long! If you are interested please sign up in the back so we can be prepared for your arrival on the 22nd at 6pm. For now, let’s pray and jump in.
We are going to cover a bunch of scriptures and there really isn’t one central scripture to pull from but I will invite you to follow along in your Bible as well as on your notes. If you don’t have a Bible feel free to use the one in the pew but if you want one you can keep please take on of the Bible at the Welcome Center table.
Our first scripture is: 1 Peter 2:11-12 Pew Bible Page 858
- Live as strangers and aliens in the world. Abstain from sin and worldly desires
- This means a couple of things, first. This place, earth is not our home. We have a different home, we are just here for now.
- We should live in such a way that we treat this place like a guest in someone else’s house.
- I don’t know how you were raised to act in a guest’s home but I know that for me.
- Feet off the furniture
- Pick up after yourself
- Use your manners
- There are some who treat the planet like their home, they throw garbage around, they pollute it, and they mess it up with violence, greed, envy, hatred.
- Since this is not our home we should live like we are a guest in this strange place.
- It is almost Weird to live this way. As if we are supposed to take care of this place. That is not the normal way to live in this world.
I would say then that we are called to be Weird.
We are called to live in such a way that people look at us and say “those people are weird.”
There appears to be two ways of living. One way that everyone else lives. A way that does what everyone else does.
But then there is another way.
A way that is different. A way that doesn’t do what everyone else does. That see what is going on in the world and does something different.
So what is it that appears to be normal in our world?
Living with no direction
Working for a paycheck job don’t like
Multiple sexual partners
These things all seem normal in today’s society.
- The majority of people in America have a credit card balance of 755 dollars
- The average debt for Baby Boomers is 101,000 dollars!
- The average person has 9 sexual partners
- The average person hates their job and has mentally “checked-out”
Debt, promiscuity,tension, rushed, stress. All these things are now considered normal in the world.
So I guess there are a couple of ideas:
•IF YOU WANT WHAT NORMAL PEOPLE HAVE, DO WHAT NORMAL PEOPLE DO.
•IF YOU WANT WHAT FEW PEOPLE HAVE, DO WHAT FEW PEOPLE DO.
I don’t know how many of you want the stressed, broke, shame and guilt that comes with being normal but if you want something better than that we have to do something different. We have to do something Weird.
Matthew 7:13-14 Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
Matthew 7:13-14 says we need to enter a narrow gate. In other words, we need to get Weird.
Not Weird in a bad way, as an outcast, but weird in a good way. In fact. Weird in a God way.
Look at what Weird people do and don’t do.
WEIRD PEOPLE •DON’T THINK LIKE NORMAL PEOPLE THINK.
- Romans 12:2 Don’t live any longer the way this world lives. Let your way of thinking be completely changed. Then you will be able to test what God wants for you. And you will agree that what he wants is right… Romans 12:2 NIrV
- Romans 12:2Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out… Romans 12:2 MSG
WEIRD MEANS YOU TO THINK DIFFERENTLY ABOUT:
- First will be last, last will be first. Serve others.
- It is a tool to be given away
- Someone wrongs you—forgive 70 x 7!
- Don’t even lust
5)VALUES•Find your life—lose it!
•DON’T LIVE LIKE NORMAL PEOPLE LIVE.
- Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. 1 Peter 2:11-12 SLOW DOWN!!!
What I know is normal doesn’t work. Normal is sickeningly sweet and ends up leaving us emptier than before.
We are not called to normal. Too many of us have been taught to strive for normal.
Normal Life where we get a job, work for 45 years and die in our normal chair in a normal room.
Normal Family 2.5 kids a dog, and two fish with kids who don’t have diseases or cancer or autism and who don’t get made fun of and grow up and become normal with their own normal family.
Normal Christianity that is safe and comfortable. You know, one hour a week on Sundays without too much liturgy or too much passion and just enough belief that when we die we get to go to normal heaven with pretty people and a blonde haired blue-eyed Jesus and angels in diapers playing mini harps?
That sounds boring just talking about it. Normal is that sickeningly sweet temptation that we think will take care of us but then we wake up one day and realize we never really lived.
We never really risked anything or tried anything dangerous we just sort of went through the motions and now that is all there is.
I think we are called to more than normal.
I think the blood of Jesus demands more than that.
I think that the God of the universe wants so much more for human beings than normal.
I think that God is calling each one of us to step out of that boring, monotonous, lifeless, normal life and embrace a God way of WEiRD.
Some of us have been stuck in normal for so long that it is killing our soul.
Some of us have been trying to be normal for so long we are exhausted and run down. We have been trying to portray this picture of normalcy and as a result we are dead inside.
How do we get out of normal?
Look at who Jesus is and what he did.
Something to understand about Jesus, he was born and raised as a good jewish man. He followed every tradition. Made every sacrifice and never broke a law. Never inappropriately touched a woman, never cursed, never lied. Never did anything wrong. That isn’t very normal. The normal way is to touch as many women as possible and lie and cheat to get ahead by any means necessary. So Jesus was kind of Weird growing up.
Then, Jesus was falsely accused of crimes he didn’t commit. When that happened he didn’t do what was normal. He didn’t fight back, throw a fist, or curse at his guards.
He did something weird.
He let it happen.
Then Jesus died. That’s pretty normal. But look at why he died. Romans 5:8 says jesus died for us while we were yet sinners. Jesus died for people who didnt deserve it. He died for liars, cheaters, thieves, and adulterers. Jesus died for drug addicts, murders, prostitutes and political officials. That is pretty weird. Normally people only die for good people. Not sinners like me and you.
but the weird this is that Jesus didn’t stay dead. Jesus came back to life in an event called the resurrection. Death is normal and Jesus is not a fan of normal so he stood up and walked out of that tomb.
When Jesus was faced with normal or Weird Jesus chose the weird. That weird that Jesus chose is what brings us here today.
Because of Jesus’ weird choices we are here today and can experience freedom from the normal treadmill of life.
No matter what you have done, who you did it to/with/for/because of or how many times you did it. Jesus is calling out to each one of us that the normal feelings of guilt, shame, and embarrassment are not are only option.
Jesus’ death gives us freedom from normalcy.
The only question left is do we want to be normal or weird?
God has a Weird just for you. There is no cookie cutter weird, if there was that would be normal. God has a custom weird designed just for you since the beginning of time.
If you want to be weird in a God way then it is a matter of calling out to God and declaring that you are going to be weird.
Maybe you are here and you are saying you want to be weird. God has a weird all planned out for you. A one of a kind unique weird way to live.
Maybe your weird is living on less and giving more.
Maybe it is serving inner city kids or purposely saving yourself until you are married.
Maybe it is leaving your job to stay home with your kids or maybe it is going back to work so you can do ministry with non-Christians.
God has a Weird way of living for you, I don’t know exactly what it looks like and I know it is going to be something you have never thought of.
What I know is Weird starts here. If you are sick of normal and sick of the way it has always been then it starts right here. Right now.
It starts with a decision right now to be weird, to get out of the normal grind and start living life in a Weird way.
And if that is what you want, to be Weird in a God way then you can make that decision right now. Between you and Jesus and calling out to Jesus that normal hasn’t worked and you are willing to try Weird.
That weird way is the way of Jesus. The way of following Jesus who said normal was boring and was weird in every way imaginable.
I am going to close in prayer. If you are sick of being normal and want to try something new, different, and weird, then this is a time to make that decision, commitment, and a time to actually start being weird.
Close in Prayer.
After finishing the book of Philippians it didn’t feel right to just give another sermon. So I did what Paul did and I wrote a letter to my favorite church. Below is that letter. Enjoy and feel free to download on iTunes.
Common English Bible (CEB)
Paul’s thanks for gifts
Next week we start our series called “WEiRD” and it is topical as we learn about different things we all struggle with.
Today we finish up our series on Philippians.
However, I couldn’t just finish it up with the normal “This means this and that means that and here is what it means for us.” Instead I wanted to do something different.
See when Paul would write a letter it would be carried out to the church by a person who would stand before the church and read it. Scholars believe that Philippians was carried by Epaphroditus who we talked about a few weeks ago.
So that is what I want to do. I am going to pray and then read you all a letter I wrote to the church that I love. You all!
Greetings from B.T., a fellow servant in the work of Jesus.
Grace and Peace to you all in the name of Jesus.
You people of Harrisville UMC are amazing! You do great things in the name of Jesus.
You do such amazing things that every time I think about you it causes me great joy and makes me praise God.
The most important thing for me to tell you is that it is not about you or your circumstances. It is not about me or my circumstances. The single most important thing in the entire world is whether or not you follow Jesus Christ.
Nothing is as important as following Christ. You might get made fun of. You might get fired, or miss a promotion. You might lose friends and you might even get killed for it. But all of that pales in comparison to knowing Jesus.
You may have been a Christian all your life, you may tithe, donate to the boiler fund, and serve on multiple committees but that does not make you any better than the brand new Christian who is walking through the door of this church for the very first time. So instead of acting better than others, make sure you are looking out for others.
Find ways to lift them up instead of promoting yourself.
When a new person walks through this door, do not look on the outside. Look for the savior of the world who loves them enough to die for them. Offer them your seat and invite them to the potluck or Sunday School.
At least just say hello and be friendly.
There are some of you who truly do put Jesus’ business ahead of your own, there are others of you who are only out for yourselves. Until you start putting Jesus ahead of yourself you will never be a faithful follower of Jesus.
I mean, look at what Jesus did.
Jesus was so concerned with the broken, hurting, and lonely of humanity that he willingly put his own greatness on the shelf and became homeless living amongst the poorest of the poor. Jesus only ever showed how great he was when he was serving other people. Jesus did everything he did to be obedient to God who loved us so much that he allowed his only son to die a violent death on a cross. This all happened so that everyone, everywhere, in the whole universe could experience God’s grace and find forgiveness for their sins.
If Jesus is willing to do that, and we are called to follow Jesus, then who are we to decide who is welcome and who is not.
Who are we to decide that our own comfort is more important than another person’s eternity? How can we look down on someone who sins when Jesus didn’t even look down on us?
Instead, we must pick up our cross and love our neighbor.
Following Jesus is as simple as trusting in Jesus more than anything else, but it is as difficult as that. To be a Christian is never about a special prayer, or a magical event, it is about a conscious decision to love Jesus and trust Jesus more than anything else, our paycheck, our family, our instincts, or the world.
Beware of any dog who tells you otherwise. Beware of any one who tells you that the only way to be a Christian is to vote a certain way, act a certain way, or do anything other than trust Jesus as top in your life. I don’t care who it is, your pastor, your parents, your spouse. If they tell you that following Jesus requires anything else than loving Jesus then ignore them. They are mutilators of the flesh and will only keep you from living up to your full potential as a Christ follower.
Of course, When you are in love with someone there are things you would and would not do. I mean, you would never purposely hurt the one you love, that isn’t very loving.
You certainly would want to spend time with the person you love. If you don’t spend time with the person you say you love then do you really love them? But these things are all expressions of love not requirements to be loved.
It would absolutely destroy me if this church were to ever stop being a church. If we allowed our own attitudes and arguments become the foundation of the church instead of Jesus I would be crushed. You are my joy and my crown. When I am asked which church I serve it gives me a sense of pride to stand up and boldly proclaim that Jesus has sent me to Harrisville United Methodist Church.
I would simply be devastated if this church became one of those other churches that argues, bickers, and does not reach out because we are too busy trying to decide who is more pious than the other.
Look, I know we are all human beings and we all have our own preferences and opinions and thoughts but for the sake of the church and the sake of Christians everywhere please stop arguing.
Some of you hate the person sitting in the next pew over. Some of you have been arguing with each other here in the church.
This makes the church look bad.
It makes people feel unwelcome.
It makes people want to give up on the church, and Jesus.
You don’t have to get along, but for the sake of other people’s eternities get over it and get along.
Do whatever it takes to be in unity with each other, when you can’t get along with the person next to you either find a new church or figure out how to get along, because those arguments about proper church attire, proper music, proper times, or who is in charge or which angle the cross is facing aren’t really about proper church,
lets cut the skubulan and man up. Those arguments are about control and who is better.
The reality is control is an illusion and Jesus is the one who holds real control and when you argue with each other you attempt to wrestle control away from Jesus, and that never ends well.
Instead of constantly arguing with each other look for commonalities. Look for places where you do get along and where you can do ministry with another person. Rejoice in those things.
Let me say it again, rejoice in those things that you can agree on. Focus on the positive change. Even if the only thing you have in common is that Jesus loves the both of you then rejoice in that. Say to each other “I may not agree with you but I can love you because Jesus loves you.”
Next week is a big week. This is a time when I am asking each of you to invite someone to church. They may not have ever been in church before or maybe it has been a lifetime since they were in church. I pray that you will see just how important it is to introduce people to the grace of God and that we can do that here in one week.
I believe that Harrisville UMC is the hope of Harrisville. That we have the power to change the community and even the world!
I believe that Jesus has called this church to change the world.
I also believe that we start that process by inviting our neighbors to church. You know that within a half-mile of this church only 15% of people go to church. That means 85% of people need to hear about Jesus.
Can you imagine what this church could do if we did just that? If we invited our neighbors and they found God’s grace here? Can you imagine! Just think about what that would do to our community?
And it starts with you! It starts with you talking to your friends/family/ and neighbors and inviting them to try out this place called church.
I am begging you, pouring out my heart to you, please invite someone to church next week.
So then, finally, I love you. I care about you more than you can realize. When I talk about amazing, wonderful, spirit-filled churches Harrisville UMC is the first church that comes to mind.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
- Pastor BT
This is my sermon from Philippians 4. It is about the importance of unity and how arguing destroys the church. Feel free to listen, enjoy, and download the audio on my podcast.
Common English Bible (CEB)
Stand firm in the Lord
Remember, Paul loves these people. He loves this church so my he calls them his Joy and His crown.
It would hurt him more than anything else if they fell apart. If they lost faith it would destroy him.
So he is urging these two people to not fight. To be unified and he is asking the church to help them.
These two women Euodia and Syntyche (sun-tu-kae) are fighting about something. Paul doesn’t mention it and these two people are not spoken of anywhere else in scripture.
Maybe it was the proper pronunciation of her name.
We don’t know why they were fighting or the outcome.
We know that Paul considered them as partners in ministry.
It appears here that two people fighting in the church is a big deal to Paul.
Paul has called them out by name and is telling them to stop.
It appears that for Paul two Christians fighting is never just two people fighting. Instead when two Christians get into an argument it hurts the whole church.
Not just the local church but the Church that holds all christians everywhere.
For example, let’s say two people at the 11:15 service are fighting with each other over whether or not those 8:28 people are theologically accurate.
What Paul is saying is that kind of an argument
hurts those two people
It hurts the 11:15 service
it hurts the 8:28 service
it hurts Harrisville UMC
it hurts the Western PA annual conference
it hurts the UMC denomination
it hurts Western Christianity
and it hurts every church of Christians in the entire world.
Suddenly, that argument isn’t worth it is it?
We’ve seen it happen. It happens in church and sunday schools and bible studies all over the world.
Maybe we haven’t seen it here at Harrisville UMC, because we would never fight with each other, but it does happen at other churches, but never here right?
One person believes that one thing is the most important thing in the world and is the absolute key to eternity.
The other person thinks the exact opposite is the key to eternity.
Both sides have bible verses, and theologians, and friends to back them up.
In Matthew 5 Jesus is telling those who follow after him to shine like a city on a hill. Maybe when two people who call themselves Christians start arguing with each other their lights are less like a city on a hill?
Maybe when our light as a city on a hill is dimmer, less people see it, less people find it, and less people find out about the grace of Jesus and spend an eternity in hell because we are more concerned with our own opinions and priorities than we are with someone else’s eternal resting place.
Maybe that is why church arguments are so ridiculous because they keep people out of heaven.
To help understand let me show you the evolution of bumper stickers.
Then it escalates
Then it changes and gets put on a T-shirt
All while missing the entire point.
When we take one small tiny point like evolution vs. creation and elevate to the main thing we miss the entire point.
And it appears that what Paul is telling us is that those tiny arguments are detrimental to the church.
Things like worship times, music preferences, food choices, type of communion bread, all seem to be giant adventures in destroying the church.
When we squabble over little things we end up missing the big picture.
So instead of having meaningless and ridiculous church arguments what should we do?
Is there something better for a Christian, for a church to do besides argue with each other?
Verse 4 tells us that instead of arguing or bickering or complaining about church we should Be glad in the Lord.
- Greek word is Chairo and it means a variety of things like rejoice, be glad, have joy.
We should be Chairo everything about what Jesus has done.
Instead of pointing out our flaws and the speck in everyone else’s eye Paul is telling us to rejoice in the good things happening.
Certainly we don’t want to bury our head in the sand but if all we do is think of the things we don’t like or the things that are bad it will drag us down and hold us to the ground.
It has been said that within every person there are two dogs, one of good and one of evil. They are fighting for control. The one that wins is the one we feed. What if it is the same thing for a church?
What if we had a choice as a church to focus on the sins of a person or to focus on the Jesus who saved that person in spite of their sins?
What if that choice were up to us? How different would the church look? How different would the atmosphere be at church council if we spent our time focusing on the blessings we have instead of the things we see as problems?
The good news of the gospel is we get that choice. We decide which dog to feed. Not just in our life but in everything we get to do. In our jobs, we can choose to hate the fact we have to go to work on Monday or we can rejoice in the God who gave us a job. In our families we can complain about having to change wet sheets at 8am or we can rejoice that God sees us fit to be parents. In our church we can complain that those kids have hats on in the sanctuary again or we can rejoice that our church has kids in it!
We get to decide whether or not we will look with disdain at those who are different or if we will look at those who are different than us and see the face of Christ.
This is easier said than done. We as humans are very gifted and talented at pointing out the negative.
Sometimes I think we do it so we don’t have to deal with the stuff in our life. We point out the speck in someone else’s eye so we don’t have to deal with the plank in our own eye.
Other times I think we point out the negative because we don’t know any better. We have been beat down and always told the negatives and how everyone is going to hell because we have never been told about the free, beautiful, amazing grace of God that rescues anyone who will call on the name of God.
I think if we want to start focusing on the positives we need to start looking for them. We need to consciously look for the positives of what is going on around us:
Pastor friend who got his first anonymous letter. Look for what isn’t being said.
So sure, there are stains on the carpet, but those stains mean that people are using the building.
So Sure, there are cigarette butts outside the church, that means there are sinners coming to the church.
So sure, there is a typo in the bulletin but it means we have the resources to make bulletins.
So sure, the person sitting next to you looks different, talks different, and sins differently than you but even they have been saved by the grace of Jesus that came because of the cross.
Recently our Dreaming and Visioning team met and began working through our mission/vision/core values of the church and we came up with our new core values.
Our core values are the things that drive us. Things that cause us to act.
They are: To reach out and Lift up those around us.
And to focus on positive change.
and that positive change comes in right in this scripture. That to argue, or squabble over the bad things is no longer a defining feature of Harrisville UMC. Instead we are choosing to focus on the positive.
From now on we choose to focus on what is true, holy, just, pure, lovely, and worthy of praise.
Today, we are going to celebrate communion. We can either look at it from the angle that says our sins nailed Jesus to the cross and it is our fault he died and if we weren’t so evil he wouldn’t have died.
Or we can approach it from another angle.
The angle that says Jesus loved us and believed in us so much that even in spite of all we have done wrong and done to hurt Jesus he willingly laid down his life for us so that we may have eternal life and that we are forgiven and that this meal is a reminder of the beauty, grace, and second chance found in the cross.
So then, today, and this week when you are faced with the difficult choice to see the negative or the positive may you choose the positive things, even if they are small and hard to find. May you find them.
After a few weeks of slacking, here is my sermon from Philippians 3:1-11. Enjoy! Feel free to listen at the bottom or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.
- Beware them dogs!
- Beware of Evil works
- Beware of those who mutilate the flesh
This brings up all sorts of ideas and questions like what do dogs have to do with mutilating flesh and why does this matter in 2013 and why is Paul so passionate about this?
Paul clearly has issues with dogs. He hates them. He even says they are not saved and will not spend eternity with God. What is the issue Paul has with these people?
In the early church there were essentially two types of Jesus followers
1. Jewish people who grew up jewish and came to know Jesus
2. Gentiles who didn’t know anything about Jewish traditions became followers of Jesus. They heard about Jesus and were “in”
Some Jewish Christians were going around telling Gentile Christians they must be circumcised to be saved.
They were creating two tiers of Christians. Jewish and Gentile.
These Jewish Christians were essentially creating two children of God, those who were real children, and those who were step children.
To these Jewish Christians Circumcision made the person a Christian.
Of all the things going on in the world of that time it seems unbelievable that the Jewish Christians were worried about a physical mark on your body? What does that have to do with being a Christian?
Maybe Circumcision has a lot to do with us.
Let’s look at some history of Christianity. and why circumcision is important.
From Genesis 3-11 humanity is a mess. There are floods, murders, and people trying to be like God. Families breaking up and giants raping girls, wars, family feuds, injustice, and poverty.
- Doesn’t sound too different from today honestly.
but it was a mess. Humanity was on the verge of collapsing on itself.
- Then a shift to Genesis 12, prior to this it is a doom and negativity. Suddenly it is a little more light-hearted. Hope filled and enjoyable.
- For God, there is a desire to change humanity.
- For God, there is a desire to create a new nation of people who follow God more than anything else.
- Enter Abram, who gets renamed to Abraham.
In Genesis 17
- God says, you are going to be blessed, you are going to change the whole world. You are going to have a new tribe and a new people who will change the world.
- The sign of this new creation and new tribe and new nation will be circumcised men.
- If you do not know what circumcision is, ask the person sitting next to you.
- This circumcision became the way to tell who believed in God and who was part of the new creation and who was part of the program to change the world.
- Circumcision came about as a way to express that these people were all about a new creation and changing the world from the evil and dangerous way it was before into a new way, with hope, joy, peace, and love.
- Circumcision is a sign of the new people. and a sign of who was serious about the new creation and who was identified as being a part of the new creation.
- Circumcision is a sign of people who believe that they are a part of the new creation. That new creation is their new identity and is expressed as a circumcision.
However, this was never meant to be a separating identity. When our own expression of our identity and how we define ourselves becomes our driving force in the world it suddenly becomes a hindrance to the expansion of our belief systems.
It’s like this: Turn to Luke 10:25-37
- Good Samaritan
- The first two were more concerned with their own identity than they were with helping others.
- The Samaritan didn’t lose his identity. He didn’t stop being a Samaritan, he didn’t give up his identity or change who he was. But he didn’t let his identity hinder what needed to be done.
So what we have here is two different world views.
- 1. Our identity and what we know, have been taught, and experienced is the driving force and anyone who is not like them is out and not good enough.
- 2. Our identity is important, but is not the driving force of our lives, instead the belief that creates our identity is what is important.
If we are honest we have held our identity as primary and perpetrated crimes against society in the name of our Christian worldview.
- How often have we silently declared that if you don’t fit into this church I won’t even shake your hand
- How often have we voiced our opinion that youth aren’t to be seen in church because they are weird?
- Every time we avoid the new people because their past might be a little shady we perpetrate a world view that says if you don’t look like me, if you weren’t born and raised in Harrisville you aren’t welcome here.
- Every time we try and take a 1950′s model of church and apply it to a 2013 world we tell the world that we care more about ourselves than we do their eternal resting place. We tell the world that we are more concerned with our wants and desires and that they can go to hell.
And we can live that way. We can keep that world view and we can hold on to that separation of us vs. them and shun out new people and shun out new ideas and people who think differently.
We can allow the belief system that creates our identity to be the rule.
Every time we reach out with care to the people around us we show that our identity is important but our belief is more important than our identity.
Every time we ask a person ‘how are you?’ and we actually listen for an answer we don’t lose our identity but we affirm that our beliefs are more important than our identity.
I think that is what Jesus wants from us. I think when Jesus came to earth he didn’t come to create a superior race of people who flaunted their separatist ideas at people and waved in their face “Hey I’m part of something and you aren’t” I think instead Jesus came to announce a better way of life that is so great that everyone should be a part of it.
And I think that better way of life is what Paul wants from us too.
Now, back to Philippians 3
- If Circumcision back then was a sign of the new creation and for those who believed in what God was doing in this world. Then Paul flips it and says it is a spiritual circumcision.
- Circumcision is no longer a mark on the skin but a mark on the heart. That it isn’t about doing things but about being different. Acting different. Living different.
- It becomes about living in the way of Jesus.
- Paul says that everything you do to earn favor with God is rubbish.
What is great is the word in verse 8 for rubbish is Skubulan. It is the closest we get to swearing-in the Bible. It means words like poo, dung, or other four letters words for that kind of stuff that Paul can mention in the Bible but I shouldn’t mention in church.
- For Paul, and for us, the only thing that matters is Jesus Christ, the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings.
Anyone who tells you that to truly get into heaven you have to do certain things or act certain ways is a dog to be avoided.
Yes there are ways in which Jesus expects his followers to act but those are not ways in which we earn salvation. Those are responses to the salvation we have been freely given through the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Beware those dogs!
- They will tell you that Jesus has love for the whole world but they won’t even talk to someone who is different.
- They will tell you that you have to look right, act right, vote right and be right to get into heaven. What they really mean is you have to be just like them.
- They will tell you that unless you earn your salvation you will never be good enough for eternity. What they mean is you better fit in or they will kick you out.
Beware them dogs! They are nothing more than mutilators of the flesh. I don’t care if they are your mom, dad, pastor, child, committee chair or sunday school teacher. Avoid them dogs!
Instead, embrace Jesus Christ, the power of his resurrection, and share in the sufferings of Christ! That in everything we do instead of trying to earn right standing with God accept the fact that Jesus’ death gives us that right standing and we only need to embrace it.
Some of you have had horrible experiences with churches, you have been deeply hurt by those dogs. Some of you have had to learn the hard way that dogs exist and they have teeth, that they use.
To you who have been hurt by a church, any church, maybe even this church. All I can do is apologize. Christians aren’t always the brightest group and sometimes they hurt people.
The way of Jesus is not to hurt people.
The way of Jesus is to love people, wherever, whoever, and however they are.
Christians are not called to sit in judgement of someone who sins differently than we do. We are called to introduce all people to the grace of Jesus who has forgiven everyone. Including the dogs who have hurt people. Please don’t give up on church, and please don’t give up on Jesus.
Even if Christians don’t show it, Jesus loves you more than you know and not all Christians are as closed-minded as the ones you may have experienced. There are some Christians who believe that God’s grace is for everyone, that love wins, and no matter what you have done, when you have done it, who you did it to/with/for/because of, or how many times you did it Jesus still loves you and forgives you.
So then, may we stop creating two tiers of Christians. May we tear down the walls that separate us and instead may we love each other. May we hold each other up, and may we each embrace the love of Jesus, the power of his resurrection, and the fact that God’s grace is what unites us all as brothers and sisters in Christ.
Here is my most recent sermon from our series on the book of Philippians. Enjoy! It is also available on iTunes as a Podcast.
Paul is writing as someone who loves his people. He loves this church more than any other.
Paul also knows he may die soon. And that he will die because of his work planting churches and sharing Christ with people, including the church in Philippi.
So he is giving them some special directions so that they may never lose their faith.
1. Carry salvation
- John Wesley says “Care and Diligence”
- I think it can be difficult to understand this but the best I can understand is like this tool box. We carry with us different tools. Maybe a wrench in different sizes, socket wrench, a hammer, maybe a saw, and as time goes on some tools get used more than others and we add new tools and new things that we use once in a blue moon for that one job we might need. I think that is what this verse is talking about. As Christians we have different tools for different occasions. Care and diligence is about acquiring the right tools and knowing how to use them.
- That is different for everyone, should include Bible reading and regular church attendance, but beyond that who knows could be, Devotions, Missions, anything that brings you closer to God. At my last church there was a man who said that he never felt closer to God than when he was on his motorcycle. I would say that is part of carrying out your salvation. It could be all sorts of things. For me, I can’t journal at all. Other people can but for me I just get bored with it. But I never feel closer to God than when I sit down and write a sermon or when I am singing an amazing worship song. However, it wasn’t always like this, and I think how we carry out our salvation can change over time.
What we know is Verse 14:
2. God lets us figure things out.
- God wants us to use care and diligence to figure out what this whole “following Jesus” thing is, but God didn’t create zombies so we are allowed to figure it out for ourself and God helps us along the way.
- For some you grow closer to God when you are gardening, with your hands in the dirt, and seeing new life come out that is when you truly feel close to God and so you should do that.
- For some you feel the warmth of God when you help others or when you are cooking or hiking or playing with your kids, or fixing a car, or building a rocket ship or reading a book or any numbers of those things.
- You should keep doing that.
3. Do without a fuss so that you may shine like stars
- But don’t whine about it. God wants us to shine like stars in the sky. As a beacon of hope to a world full of darkness.
- John Wesley writes that murmurs and grumblings are hindrances to the love of God in this world.
- There are times when we don’t want to connect with God. There are times when the last thing we want to do is anything that brings us closer to God. I would suggest that those are the times we need to do it the most.
- When we complain about what it takes to follow Jesus we hinder our own growth and we hinder other people’s growth.
Paul says all of that just to finish with “I am going to die.” There will come a time when I won’t be with you. You won’t get to have me around anymore. Whether I am killed for my faith or just die of old age, I will die. That is good leadership, preparing the next generation of leaders.
We must always be keenly aware that no matter how good a leader is, how much we love them, or how much they have done for us there will come a day when they are not here.
And if we are not prepared for their departure it will be disastrous to any organization.
What Paul is telling his people is if you are growing closer to God then it doesn’t matter who the leader is because you will be close to God.
If we put all our faith into one person, whether that is a grandparent, spouse, parent, pastor, or anyone else we get into shaky ground because that person won’t be around forever. One day they will let you down.
But if we are carrying our own salvation and working with care and diligence on what it means to follow Jesus for ourselves then the leaders become more of a guide than an idol. They help and encourage but in the end your faith is yours regardless of who is in charge.
So then, we are called to fill our toolbox with the tools that connect us to the God who saved us. We figure it out for ourselves and we learn and grow and do it more and more and then when it comes time that we need those tools we have them at our disposal. Regardless of who the leader is or who taught us we have the tools we need to lead when the time comes.
But it also goes beyond that. As you learn which tools to use and how to use them we each need to be teaching the younger generation. Because one day we will not be here and if we have not taught the next generation how to pray, lead, and use the tools God has given them then they will not succeed, and it won’t be their fault. It will be ours.
Let us Pray:
This sermon continues our journey through the book of Philippians. Enjoy! Feel free to listen to the audio at the bottom or on iTunes, as a podcast.
This scripture today brings up a lot of different variables and we are going to jump into them and see what it says for us, today, in Harrisville UMC.
Paul starts with an if then statement and a powerful one.
If there is encouragement from Christ
John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give you. I give to you not as the world gives. Don’t be troubled or afraid.”
That sounds encouraging So, yes, there is encouragement from Jesus
If it is possible for love to comfort
Ever been hurting more than you can imagine and the best source of comfort comes from those you love?
So yes, there is comfort in love
If the spirit is with you
John 14:26 “The Companion, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I told you.
So the Holy Spirit is with us.
If there is any sympathy among you
This one is my favorite, The New Living Translation says “hearts tender and sympathetic” Other translations says “Affection and mercy”
The King James says “Bowels and mercies”
The Greek words used are “Splag-non” and “oikitirmos”
Splag-non literally means “Guts”
In the ancient world the basis of your feelings were in your guts. We say “I love you with my whole heart” they say “I love you with all my guts” For the jewish people of the time the Splag-non was the seat of compassion
Oikitirmos is literally a moving of the guts with compassion.
It is to be some moved that our guts are wrenched in two.
Paul is asking, is there anything that moves you. That rips your heart in two when you experience it?
Violence on animals?
Is there anything that when you see it moves you to action because it upsets you so much!
I would suggest that there something like that in each and every one of us.
Since, on some level every single one of those things are true, Paul gives a THEN statement
Be like Jesus.
That’s it, because of encouragement, love, comfort, the Holy Spirit, and because somethings just move you to action be like Jesus.
If we take that seriously what would that look like? What would our lives look like?
Look at what Jesus did.
Verse 5: Jesus was in the form of God and considered that nothing!
- How many of us strive to be more in control and have more power and be God-like. Jesus considered all the control and power that he had to be nothing.
Instead Jesus emptied himself and made himself obedient even to death.
What would that look like?
What would it look like in our lives to empty ourselves and be obedient even to death?
- Greek word is “Kenos” means emptied
Jesus fully emptied himself.
Are we saying Jesus emptied his “Godness” from himself?
Jesus became human and became obedient to God.
Jesus was entitled to the throne, Jesus is all-powerful, all-knowing, all creating, and Jesus put that on the shelf and left it behind so that he might be obedient to God.
I don’t know what your concept of God is but scripture says Jesus is God who voluntarily emptied himself
Verse 8 says Jesus humbled himself and became obedient even to death on a cross
There is a story of Jesus in John 13 where Jesus gets down and washes the feet of the disciples.
- There is nothing more humbling than this. Feet are gross and here is the God of the universe who has emptied himself washing someone else’s feet.
- Jesus not only emptied himself he did what was beneath him. I mean he should have had a crown of jewels, not thorns, and here Jesus was so humble he gave up and died a very public death naked, bleeding, and thirsty on a cross.
Verse 9 says that God highly honored him
To be highly honored by God means that at some point you have to do gross things? It means you have to consider what you are “entitled” to as nothing?
To be highly honored by God means that we have do what is “beneath us?”
That seems to smack in the face of american consumerism that says get more, worker harder and climb the ladder of success.
Verse 10 and 11 says that all of this happened so that everyone might know who Jesus is.
What does that mean for us?
A lot of people have different views of Christianity and what it means, some are bad and some are good and I don’t know what your view of Christianity is but what I read in our scripture is that truly being like Jesus, truly following Jesus, is doing what Jesus did: Giving up what we think we are entitled to and getting down on our hands and knees with dirt under our fingernails and working side by side with those who most people would consider “beneath us”
I think this means for us that this American Church-ianity is the opposite of Christianity. When we assume that Christians are all about learning more, sitting in church more, and attending more “events”
Too often non-Christians think that Christians are all about getting more money, gossiping about others, and looking down on “Sinners” but what I read in this scripture is that true Christianity is about stepping down out of our holy ivory tower and look at our neighbor next to us and washing their feet.
That through our living, working, being with our neighbor we can share with them the love of Jesus.
Look at another event in Jesus’ life. In Matthew 26 Jesus knew the end was coming soon and that soon he would be naked, bloody, and thirsty on a cross to die. So he gathered his friends hoping to find some comfort and he had a last meal.
At that last meal Jesus took the bread and prayed to God and broke it and said to his friends, this is my body. Then Jesus took the cup and prayed and gave it to his friends and said this is my blood poured out for the whole world for the forgiveness of sins.
If our call is to be like Jesus then this is the example to follow. He gave up his very life so that others may live.
And so we are going to take communion, we are going to gather around this table as those who are called to die to our entitlements so that others may find eternal life.
As I pray may we forget those things we think we deserve and embrace the cross on which our savior died.