To those who are self-serving and use their religion against others by viewing themselves as better than others, Jesus teaches that life in the kingdom is about service, humility, genuineness, and open hospitality. Let your life be changed to follow Jesus into his kingdom by living the values of the kingdom.
In one church, an elder worked with a couple for several weeks, studying the bible with them in their own home. After these weeks of study and prayer, the couple decided to be baptized. They were baptized on a Thursday evening and presented to the congregation the following Sunday. But they weren't fully welcomed. Why? Because they were living together, ummarried.
The elder continued to work with this couple and teach them that they needed to either marry or live separately until they married. But his work may have been in vain, for this couple was never completely accepted. Finally, they quit attending.
Did they quit attending because they didn't want to conform their lives to the gospel? Or did they quit because of the lack of full acceptance while they continued to wrestle with the life changes the gospel required of them?
When our rules take precedence over compassion for people, we lose our focus. In this sermon, I look at the example of Jesus and how he healed even on the Sabbath (and was thus labeled a rulebreaker). Jesus taught that the kingdom of God is about justice and compassion, not rules that limit and divide.
We know, as Christians, that we're called to follow Jesus. But two temptations exist: to seek comfort in our experience or to control our experience. Rather than following Christ where he leads us--sometimes through suffering and rejection--we water down his teaching to make it comfortable for us or we control it by setting parameters for what it means to follow Jesus.
Jesus criticizes both. To those who want comfort, he tells the parable of the rich fool to teach that we need to continually be open to God and his leading, wherever it takes us. To those who seek to control (as evidenced by their ability to "forecast" the weather), Jesus teaches that we need to trust him.
We do this by "interpreting the times." This means being watchful, aware, alert, and awake to the movement of the Spirit within us so we're available to answer Jesus' call when we hear it. This is the same Spirit who sends us out into the world to give freely to others just as we were freely given to. Do you hear him calling?
In Luke 12:13-21, a man asked Jesus to referee between him and his brother regarding a family inheritance. While the man likely was in the right to expect a portion of the inheritance, his question to Jesus was wrong because it was based in his desire for money (the inheritance). This greedy attitude came in the way of his following Jesus, caused him to try to use Jesus for his own agenda, and forced him to become self-serving instead of a servant to others.
In contrast, Jesus taught us to beware of all kinds of greed--and it takes effort! But he taught us, first by his example, then by the parable of the rich fool who left no room in his life for God and did not care about sharing out of God's abundance with others, to be rich toward God.
We're rich toward God when we practice both the right attitude--stewardship of God's resources--and the rich action--sacrifice in matters of money (since it's all God's anyway).
This sermon is a personal sermon. I presented the financial state that we are currently in as a church (we face a weekly deficit) and asked people to consider whether they can give more. I shared our personal circumstances with all humility to share that we are leading by example in this.
To encourage more giving, I offered the $3 Challenge. I asked us to consider making a sacrifice in order to give $3 more per person each week. If we do this, we will close the gap on our weekly deficit and begin rebuilding our savings. It's really that simple!
In the sermon, I offered a number of ways we can save in order to sacrifice: eating out less (or skipping dessert, or eating fast food instead of dining in); making coffee at home once or twice a week instead of buying it; and using the library once or twice each month for a book or DVD instead of purchasing the item.
We can do this if we work together. Will you sacrifice a little to help us a lot?
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