Friday, September 5, 2008

You Want Me to do WHAT?

S‑1071 08/31/2008 16SAP/3A Hymns: (O) #410; (S) #518 vv 1-4; L.S. #523; #526; #339; (C) #46

Texts: Jeremiah 15:15-21; Romans 12:9-21; Matthew 16:21-28

Theme: “You Want Me to do What?” (Romans 12:17-21).


Question: “Have You really be Challenged?”

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text for our meditation is from the book of Romans. The text will be read in the message (Rom. 12:17-21).

INTRODUCTION: Saints in Christ in the Gospel of John we read these words: “When many of His [Jesus’] disciples heard it, they said, ‘This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?’” (John 6:60). Certainly there are many sayings of Jesus that are hard to understand. There is even a book on the market by F.F. Bruce called The Hard Sayings of Jesus. Here is a sample of what Dr. Bruce discusses in his book: “You must be perfect. Eating and drinking the blood of the Son of Man. I didn’t come to bring peace but sword. The Sabbath is for man. Turning the other cheek.”

It is hard for us 21st century disciples of Jesus to think that we can’t meet the challenges of today. We at times act and think like we know it all. Perhaps you have been in this situation. A group of believers are meeting at a restaurant. The pastor asks one of the youth to pray. The girl responds, “You want me to do WHAT, and in public? The nominating committee asks God’s people to serve as chairman of the congregation, elder, usher, Board of Evangelism, and many respond: “You want me to do WHAT?” The Sunday school Board asks for SS and Midweek teachers and they respond, “You want me to do WHAT?”

Like His master and teacher, Paul in our text gives us something that is really hard to understand and follow. With these words, Paul removes any doubt that for us Christians to be true disciples we have to be different from the world. And no text challenges us more than this one from Paul. As you read it you will say, “You want me to do what?” Are you kidding Paul? Have you gone mad? You don’t know what you are saying!”

Hear now what Paul is challenging us to do. “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:17-21).

These words are not written for others, but for us here today. They challenge us to hold high the teachings of Jesus Christ who Himself said, “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High” (Lk. 6:35). They also challenge us to forgive others. And we still cry out, “You want me to do WHAT?”

It is easier said than done. A wife struggles to forgive her husband who has been having an affair. A father struggles to forgive his son, because he keeps lying to him. Church leaders choose to carry grudges in congregational matters rather than seek reconciliation. A saint has difficulty forgiving his pastor for a word he said. PAUSE

Who of us can do what Paul asks? None! Why? Because we are all sinners, selfish and self-centered people. If someone hurts us we want to get even. We want to give them a fast and furious knuckle sandwich. When someone does wrong against us we find it hard to forgive and forget. When someone lies to us, we have a hard time trusting them. But because we know the mercy of God and His grace we attempt to carry out this command of Paul.

In the book of Romans which we have been privileged to study and proclaim the messages from this summer, reveals to us the bounty of God’s mercies. Formerly we were enemies of God, but now, because of Jesus Christ, we are the people of God. God’s mercy not only forgives our sins, but it also transforms our lives. God’s mercy is the vehicle by which we are moved to do the impossible which God asks us to do.

For us Christians we walk the narrow path, the one less traveled. Not surprisingly, we face many oppositions and challenges from those on the wide path, those who live outside the council of God’s Word. And yet, because we know the grace and mercy of God we strive to live for God in a different way than the world and people around us.

My colleague and prayer Partner, Dr. Peter Kurowski in His book The Lifelines of Love writes these valuable words: [Forgiveness of sins ranks as both our greatest gift and greatest resource. With this gift God makes enemies friends and good friends stronger friends. Through this gift God brought about a change between Himself and the world through what is known as “the happy exchange”.

“The happy exchange” involved God sending His Son to suffer hell that we might have heaven, being forsaken that we might be forgiven, and suffering an eternal death that we might have eternal life] (The Lifelines of Love, Peter M. Kurowski p. 24)

I am not going to minimize what Paul is asking us to do. He is asking us to do the impossible. The impossible challenges us to be like minded people of God, letting go of the past and striving towards the future with love and hope rooted and grounded in our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Don’t forget saints in Christ that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is indeed counter-cultural. At times it may even seem downright stupid. But the call of a Christian is to love their neighbor, even their enemy, not only in word, but also in deed. In doing so, we proclaim by our lives the very life-giving Gospel that frees us for eternity.

When we are challenged by Paul, and Jesus, we cry out loud and sometimes not so loud saying, “YOU WANT ME TO DO WHAT? We may not forgive. We may hold a grudge. We may curse even underneath our breath. But the challenge remains before us as the followers of Jesus to be like Him.

Remember please that when Jesus was told by His Father to come as an infant child in Mary’s womb, to take upon Him the sins of the world, the wrath of God, the fires of hell. He didn’t say, “You want me to do WHAT?” On the contrary whenever He was asked to do something He did it with joy for all of us.

The author to the Hebrews put it this way: “looking to Jesus, the Founder and Perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2).

Isaiah declared it this way: “He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth” (Is. 53:7).

Peter proclaimed it this way: When He was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but continued entrusting Himself to Him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed. (1 Peter 2:23-24).

You and I may squirm, scream and squeal, ‘YOU WANT ME TO DO WHAT?” But thanks be to God that Jesus said, I have done it for you. Hear Him from the cross say it best, “Father Forgive them….” Amen.

Now the peace of God…

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