Sunday, May 31, 2009

Dare to be a Daniel

Well, I preached this morning at church, and am now going to throw up here my notes/sermon text/etc stuff…

Focus Passage - James 3:2-12
For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well.
3 Now if we put the bits into the horses’ mouths so that they will obey us, we direct their entire body as well.
4 Look at the ships also, though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, are still directed by a very small rudder wherever the inclination of the pilot desires.
5 So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire!
6 And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell.
7 For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race.
8 But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison.
9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God;
10 from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.
11 Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water?
12 Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Nor can salt water produce fresh.


A few days ago, I was playing with my youngest son on the floor, and for whatever reason, I said, "Well, aren't you a stinky-monkey."

Without missing a beat, and in the most exasperated tone imaginable--it was one of those tones that you can hear his eyes rolling in his head-- his response to that was, "I'm not a stinky-monkey, I'm a Daniel."

At the time, I dismissed it, but as I began thinking about what I was going to write, the more that simple statement echoed in my head over and over again. And as I listened to the echoes, the more I realized something, something that my two-year-old son had, and firmly, naturally, understood.

He knew what he was, and what he wasn't. For him, it was simple, he wasn't a "stinky-monkey," he was a Daniel. More importantly, was the simple fact that he was willing to tell me that.

What my son intuitively grasped, what he knew, was that when denying what he wasn't, to claim what he wanted to be, he had to speak, and do certain things.

Willing to Speak:

First, he had to be willing to speak. He had to think about the fact that this was something that he wanted to speak against, or speak for, and then he had to do it.

How many times have we been in situations where we've felt the Lord urging us to say something, and we haven't--all because we were unwilling to speak.

How many times have we looked at something that needed to be done within the Corps, and we haven't, because we were unwilling to serve.

Willingness to act, is as much an act as anything. After all, if you're unwilling to do something, then that is the act of not doing it. God wants and needs us to be willing to do for him.

Matthew 4:19 reads, and he said unto them, Follow me and I will make you fishers of men. This is Jesus while gathering His disciples calling out to Simon and Andrew. He called, and asked them to act--He asked them to follow Him.  How different would things be, if Simon Peter had hesitated?  If he had been unwilling to act?  But no, Simon and Andrew had been willing to listen to Christ, to heed His call, and what they did was they left their nets and immediately followed Christ.

That willingness to act is part of being a Christian. We're supposed to act and do as He commands--and to do that, we have to be willing to help. We need to be willing to step into the roles and the needs that He opens for us.

When To Speak:

Next my son had to actually speak up--and more importantly, he had to know that he had to speak at that moment. It would not have made any sense to anyone, if he had come to me three or four days after I had called him a "stinky-monkey," to tell me that he wasn't one.

But, knowing when to speak, and when not to--which is actually a much more important skill--is expected of us.

Proverbs 1:27-28 states, He who restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise; When he closes his lips, he is considered prudent. Paul is actually even clearer, in Ephesians (5-4), he says, Obscene, flippant, or vulgar talk is totally inappropriate. Instead, let there be thanksgiving.

It's clear that God expects us to control our tongues. He expects us to not speak words of hate and anger, and sin but rather words of love and praise and thanksgiving.and knowledge.  Psalms 49:3 says "My mouth shall speak wisdom; and the meditation of my heart shall be of understanding." while Psalms 119 verse 172 reads My tongue shall speak of your word; for all your commandments are righteousness.

And that not just running your mouth, that not speaking inappropriately, that takes practice, and prayer. We have to continuously be on our guard against what will slip out of our mouths.  Much the same way that we have to be willing to listen for God's voice telling us that now is the time to speak.

What to Speak:

The third thing that my son had to know what to say.  He knew what he was, he was certain of it, therefore, he was able to give voice to that knowledge.  I'm a software consultant, people pay me to be knowledgeable and to speak with authority about computers.

As Christians, that is how we're supposed to be. People, expect us to know the Bible, and to know what it says about things. I was talking with a friend awhile back, he happens to be an ordained minister.  We were talking about our kids and I made the off-hand comment that my brother-in-law calls my eldest son, Nathan, "The Little Prophet."  I could see he was slightly confused, so I had to explain to him that Nathan was a prophet in the Old Testament.  Now, Nathan was not nearly as popular a prophet as Elijah or Isaiah, but in my studies of the Bible I have come across his name several times. I mean, it was Nathan who rebuked David after the incident with Bathsheba, and it was Nathan who intervened during the attempted palace coup by Adonijah.  I expected my friend to know about the Bible, and that expectation of knowledge applies to us all.

Hosea 4:6 says: My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being My priest. Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.  and Proverbs 18:15 tells us, The mind of the prudent acquires knowledge, And the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.

These are just two of the verses in which God tells us how much of an emphasis He places on knowledge, on us learning things, on us learning about Him and  His Word. So often, we stop learning once we get out of school. We find ourselves a nice little perch, where we tell ourselves that he know enough, and we decide that that's it. That that's all we need to know.

In my career field, I would be obsolete within two years if I did that.

And it's not just in our careers, but in our existence as Christians, that we can't just stop learning. We're supposed to be in the Word. We're supposed to be learning, and growing. We're supposed to be doing this, so that we can speak with authority.  So that we can witness, and so that we can teach.

What he is not:

The final thing he had to do, is he had to know what he wasn't.  For him, it was simple. He was not a "stinky monkey."

For those of us who are not two years old, it's much harder, because we have to look deep into ourselves, and realize things about us, about our nature, that are not nice.

First, we have to firmly grasp the concept that none of us are good people.  The Bible is clear, we are all sinners, we are all wicked, and we are all justly condemned by God.

This brings us to the next thing that we have to realize about ourselves. We have to realize that, in and of ourselves, we are not worthy of God's glory. That's the entire purpose of the Old Testament--to show us, just how impossible it is for us to truly work our way into Heaven. The OT shows us that, by virtue of the Law, and the fact that only 1 man in all of history was able to never break a single one of them.

These two facets of ourselves can be summed up by Romans 3:23 which states that for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Think about that verse for a moment, as I want to bring two points into focus.

The beginning of that verse says "all have sinned," grammatically that's in the perfect sense, which means that it has happened in the past, and is continuing in the present.  That all includes, everyone--the verse is clear, we have all sinned, and we all continue to sin and we all will continue to sin.  The  second part of that verse, furthers that thought, but does not reiterate it. I have often heard the second part of this verse misquoted.  Some people, say "for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." That's wrong because right now, right at this moment, we fall short of the glory of God.  Until you die, or are raptured, you will continue to fall short of the glory of God.

There is another thing that we need to be aware about ourselves, and that is that we are not the center of the universe. Our culture, our way-of-life, teaches us otherwise. You hear people constantly going on and on about self-esteem, and self-worth. The World wants us to look at ourselves, and to put our self, or worse, others, onto pedestals. The world tries its best to teach us that we are all idols of our selves.

Philemon 2:3-4 says Do Nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also the interests of others. Paul wrote those words and took aim at the root of the sinful nature of all of us--our self-centeredness. Think about the person that suffers from jealousy, what are they thinking about? What is the focus of their thoughts? Themselves!   Anger, lust, bitterness, greed, gossip, slander--all sins against others, and all of them rooted in our self-centeredness, all rooted in our fallen nature.


Luckily for us, none of those are things that matter to Christ.  And the reason that none of those matters is simple. Jesus accepts us. Jesus accepts us, in our evilness, in our wickedness and in our glorious unworthiness. Jesus accepts us.

* ask to come play Just as I am*

Jesus accepts us.  He wants us to come to him. With our needs, with our desires, with our prayers. He wants us to come to him, with our hopes and our dreams.

Jesus wants us all to come to him, Just as we are.

For me it is simple. I'm not a good person, I'm a Christian. I'm not worthy of God's love, I'm a Christian. I'm not the center of everything, I'm a reflection of God's love.

I quoted Romans 3:23 earlier, but that's just a part of a larger connected text. Verse 24 continues the thought by saying, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. I'm unworthy. I'm sin-filled, but the blood of Jesus not only redeems me, but it justifies me.

When God had made us, when He had finished making the world, he looked at it and said that it was good.  He had to know what was going to happen--he had to know that we would fall, that we would fail, time and again, and that He would have to sacrifice His son to save us all. Yet, He looked at us all, and said that we were good.
He offered the sacrifice, that ultimate, perfect sacrifice, to make us worthy and worthwhile. He did this because His blood makes us acceptable to Him

Come, are you willing to let Jesus accept you as you are right now? For the Christians here today, do you have any problems, unconfessed sins, or just feel the need to get closer to God? Come--God accepts them.  God wants you to get closer to him.  That's the whole point; that's why God wants you to keep learning, to be willing to listen to His voice, and willing to act when he prompts.

And for any who are not Christian, who do not know Christ as your Lord and Savior, are you willing to finally find those things which the World is unable to offer?  Are you ready to find the pure, and total acceptance of Christ?  Come--God accepts you.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

not bad, brother, are you sure about your current occupation

May 31, 2009 at 3:37 PM  

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