Chuck handed his Pastor the keys to a brand new John Deere X739 Signature Series Lawn Tractor. The V-Twin, liquid-cooled iTorque power system with electronic fuel injection puts out twenty-six horses. The 60-inch Edge High-Capacity mower deck with MulchControl effortlessly chews through the thickest grass and soggiest leaf piles. The hydrostatic four-wheel drive with TwinTouch control pedals powers this mower uphill, downhill, and side-hill, through swampy low-spots and over dried out ruts. The 20-bushel Click-N-Go Material Collection System can devour every leaf on the 4-acre church property and spit out the waste at the touch of a button. Make no mistake about it, this beast would keep the outside of God’s house immaculate.
Everyone saw the advantage. Actually, they had no choice. Chuck stood at the front doors of the church just beaming. As worshippers filed through those doors Sunday morning, Chuck made to point out the new tractor. “I spent $20,000 on that for the church.”
Impressed? Probably not. You can see past the object given and pinpoint the motivation for that generosity. Chuck did not care if God received the honor, respect, and praise owed him. That thought never enters the mind. No, Chuck bought expensive equipment in order to buy praise for himself.
The heart’s endless quest for attention hinders Christian service. That is why God asks you today: ‘What is your motivation for serving?’ Because Christian service has only one starting point: God’s grace. The reason we serve is because God’s Grace Motivates Christian Service. We are unworthy servants. So, We only do our duty.
You could summarize Luke 17:1-10 with those words: ‘Christian service.’ In fact, that single thread connects each verse together. Jesus said to his disciples: Temptations to sin are sure to come… Temptation, that is, a desire to do what God forbids— and you (and I) encounter no shortage of temptation. Think about the powerful craving to get revenge when that careless driver cuts you off. Or revisit the strong, greedy impulses to hold back money from God. Temptations surround you (and me), hoping to drag our attention and hearts away from the Word of God! (Revelation 12:9)
Understand, being tempted is not wrong. Telling the devil, ‘No! I will not do evil. Go away!’ is not sinful. Jesus makes it clear: [W]oe to the one through whom they come! Acting on temptation is wrong. So, Pay attention to yourselves! Temptation can suddenly seize you and steal you away from serving God with your life.
Do you see where temptation can appear? Jesus highlights two areas in life. Two areas where you (and I) are called to serve each other, but can serve for the wrong reasons. If your brother sins, rebuke him… Serve by approaching him out of heartfelt care and concern. Identify how this action drags him away from God and closer to death. Identify the evil so that he turns away from it and turns to life! [I]f he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” If he keeps trespassing on your property and he keeps coming to you, tears in eyes, heart torn, pleading: ‘I am so sorry, forgive me!’ then forgive. Release him from guilt. Assure him of a restored standing between you and him. If she keeps trashing your reputation you and keeps returning saying, ‘I am so sorry! I am trying hard to speak nice. Please forgive me!’ then forgive. Do not hold a grudge; do not seek revenge. Put the offense in the past; consider it: ‘Paid in full.’ You serve by bringing the forgiveness of Christ into life.
Is that something you want to do? To be honest, If [my] brother sins, [I will] rebuke him. I can point out faults. “Hey! You cussed! Don’t do that! …And you— you hit your sister! Stop that! …And you think no one saw your car at home last Sunday morning? I did on the way back from church.” I love rebuking people because pointing out someone else’s failures makes me look superior— like I’m a better Christian than my fellow believers! And forgiving— well, that’s a little more difficult. After all, that no-good, trespassing neighbor keeps spooking away my deer and I have to deal with it. I have no deer for deer season, and he will still have something to hunt. It hurts when my friend does not appreciate my help. It makes me feel unimportant. Her attacks are not showers of heaping praise I want to hear. The sister who always argues? Well, why forgive her? She needs me, I do not need her. So, let her taste what life is like without my kind advice, my help, my encouragement. Let her suffer.
Do you see it? Right beside selfless service stands the temptation for pride. I rebuke the sinner, not to protect a soul, but to exalt my moral superiority! I refuse to forgive because I consider that weakness and my pride will suffer. People will consider me ‘a push over’ and think that I can absorb abuse. I do not want pain, I want praise. Even when I put the encouragement of Christ into action I am tempted to gloat! “I forgave the bully! I am so strong!... I still speak to my brother and he drives me nuts. I am so loving!... I brought back that member who has not been in church for a while!... Look at me! I am such a great Christian!” If you think your Christian living is one great big gift to God, then you have fallen into pride.
Do you know what Jesus gives pride? A nice pillow-sized stone. It would be better… if a millstone were hung around [the] neck and cast into the sea so that no one else imitates your self-centered living!
Which makes it quite strange that God does do that. God does not hang your pride around your neck and watch you sink straight into the depths of hell. Instead, he takes your pride, ties it around Jesus’ neck, and lets it drag his own Son into death.
You see, Jesus stands in Luke 17 not as a Teacher or a Taskmaster. He stands a servant. He deserves all praise because he withstands temptation (Matthew 4:1-11). He deserves all praise because he forgives sin (Mark 2:9-12). He deserves all praise because he literally comes to rebuke the sin that was killing us (Luke 19:10). Yet, instead of praise, he receives insults. He receives an untruthful death-sentence. He receives our punishment. Jesus comes not to be served, not to stoke his pride, but to set aside his crown as King and fill you with his innocent life! (Mark 10:45).
That is called ‘grace.’ Love not deserved, but love God chooses to shower on you (and me)! Just think: do you deserve God punished for your pride? Are you so awesome, so wonderful that God desperately needed to trade Jesus for you? By no means! You (and I) deserve death, but God gives us life! Jesus lives to give you (and me) the greatest title of all: a servant in the household of the almighty God!
God’s Grace Motivates Christian Service. What makes us even want to care about someone else? God’s Grace. God has changed you from a death-row rebel into unworthy servants. Servants who seek no self-praise. Rather, servants who ponder this gift of love and see only opportunities to do our duty.
“Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? Obviously, we do not have slaves, but we do expect people to carry out the responsibilities associated with their jobs. Do teachers thank students for doing their homework? No! A student is expected to do his work. That is part of learning, that is literally what a student does; he learns. Do you thank your [grand]children when they finish their chores or brush their teeth? No! If you command a [grand]child to clean her room, that child (who lives under you authority) is expected to obey you. Do you praise parents for staying up all night with an infant and then going to work tired and later cleaning the house and running errands? No! Parents have a responsibility to raise a child at any cost! We do not give credit to someone who merely does their job. Those with a title are expected to complete the responsibilities of that title.
In the same way, God has prepared you (and me) for Christian service (Ephesians 2:10). ‘Christian’— because the Holy Spirit has put Christ in our hearts. ‘Service’— because your (and my) actions address needs. If you (and I) belong to the household of God, then God expects us to live as people who are part of the household of God. God will not shower you with bonus points because you approached your son about living with his girlfriend outside of marriage. You will not earn extra credit because you forgave a stubborn father. God does not fist-pump the air because you made it to worship today. You already belong to God. You are not doing him favors. You are not earning extra slices of heaven. You only do your duty; you live as God expects a Christian to live.
That might be difficult to do. Perhaps you find it difficult to forgive. She accused you of some horrible things, when, in reality, you gave her money, spoke up for her, and helped her. Maybe you wrestle with pride; you really want self-praise for sharing faith in public or giving $5.00 to the homeless on the corner. I mean, you did something no one else did. So, where do you turn to keep pride in check? The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. Here’s the point: God gives strength to do difficult tasks.
How does he give strength? You focus on him. You do not see a stubborn sister or homeless man. You see Jesus. You see Jesus forgive you—even though you approached him seven times for the same act. He never brings up that shame again. That’s what you see in front of you. So, you can say: ‘I forgive you. I forgive because I have been forgiven much more free of charge.’ You see Jesus on the street-corner. You look at the money that is always there because God always makes sure that it’s there. So, you give. You lose nothing; you give because God has given you much more than $5.00. You give to the financial needs of your church. You give prayers for those far from God. You only do your duty because God has adopted you into his household.
The heart’s endless quest for attention hinders Christian service. That is why God asks you today: ‘What is your motivation for serving?’ Because Christian service has only one starting point: God’s grace. The reason we serve is because God’s Grace Motivates Christian Service. So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’”
This is an Equal-Arm Beam scale. (You have probably seen one of these before; it’s a pretty common scale.) As you can see, the main beam balances and pivots in its exact center. Each end of the beam is an equal distance from that center pivot. So, you can add weight to each end and study how the beam balances. A heavy object will cause one side of the beam to drop and the other to rise. To balance the beam, you must add weight to the light arm until the beam levels. Then can you conclude the two objects have equal weight.
Scales perform wonderfully in comparing weight. In fact, scales do not care about the value of an object— whether you weight gold and rocks or food and dirt. The scale simply reveals which object is heaviest.
This morning God uses a scale to reveal what has top value in your heart. Out of all the objects in this worldly life, only one holds eternal value. So, Keep Balanced the Scales of Your Heart! Worldly wealth never satisfies, but God’s mercy always overflows.
In our Old Testament selection you see scales at work. In fact, you see them as they are most commonly used: in business. Ancient coins did not have a number-value attached to them. For example, today’s money has a value stamped on it. So, the same-sized scrap of green paper can be worth different amounts simply due to the number printed on it. Yet, ancient coins (like the shekel) had value based on weight. Two shekels could weight different amounts. So you needed a scale. If loaf of bread cost two shekels, the merchant would hang a two-shekel weight on one side of the scale and you would weigh out shekel-coins until the scale balances. That balanced scale allows the merchant to receive and you to pay the right shekel-weight.
A scale makes transactions fair. So, some tweaked it. Merchants made the ephah small and the shekel great[.] An ‘ephah’ measures about a half-bushel… but the merchants adjusted those measurements. If you are selling grain, they pull out a slightly larger basket and you give away more grain than needed. If you are buying grain, they break out a slightly smaller basket and you receive less than desired. Or, if a loaf of bread costs two shekels, the merchant would hang a weight heavier than two-shekels on one side. You shelled out more coins and the merchant gained more wealth! Yet, they do not stop there; they hoard more by giving less. No one lowers food prices for the elderly and disabled, those between jobs and those honestly trying to get by. After all, donating is money given away! The merchants would sell— not give— but sell a measly peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich for 8-hours of labor. And if your bare feet needed a pair of cheap, two-dollar-sandals, they made you scrounge for two dollars first. They even swept up the grain kernels and husks, leaves and stems, pack it into a bag, and sell it. Those sneaky merchants do all they can to suck a little extra money from you.
Let’s be clear: God does not condemn gaining money. It is not wrong to be rich. It is not wrong to make six-digits. It is not wrong to buy a big house or new car. God does not condemn an individual person. He does not say: “Listen up you merchants and business-owners!” No, he condemns those who trample on the needy and bring the poor of the land to an end. That can refer to any person: rich or poor, business or customer. Simply put: God condemns an attitude.
Here’s how that attitude appears. On one side [of the scale] hangs God. On the other side hangs money. Greed consumes more attention than God. Greed says, “When will the New Moon be over[…] and the Sabbath be ended?” Weekly worship allows people to leave work, leave business behind, and reflect on the spiritual rest the God provides. People worshipped, but not because they wanted to. Instead, they sit in the pew and stare out the window wondering: ‘When will church be over so that we may market wheat [and] that we may sell grain?’ Those with much want more. Those with little want more. Greed has no limits; it will only consume more and more of the heart. Worldly wealth never satisfies.
You (and I) live in the wealthiest nation in the world (https://fortune.com/2015/09/30/america-wealth-inequality/). And I’m not talking about the ‘Top 1%;’ this is you (and me), middle class. You (and I) are able to select a day and retire. You receive so much extra money that you can literally stop working and still get paid from retirement accounts. I have known people whose retirement lasted longer than their working years. The prices at McDonald’s goes up and we complain, but we still go there. In fact, we can afford the menu and maintain our standard of living. Social Security received a raise last year (after having six flat years!) and you still hear: ‘Well, it’s still not enough.’ You have already been living without that raise! You had food and shelter, clothing and transportation. What necessity did you go without that Social Security must cover? You learn the financial needs of your congregation and can still say, ‘Well, if I had more, then I could give more.’ If you find those words coming out of your mouth, then it appears the problem is not with a lack of money, but with the priority of money. That starts with the attitude of the heart.
That’s what a scale reveals. When money becomes an object worshipped, it demands more and more time devoted to it. That keeps us from wanting to let it go. God keeps filling your pockets for daily bread and still comes the complaint that it is just not enough. We make excuses as to why we cannot even consider giving more to God. We create reasons as to why cannot even give food to the needy or blame a struggling neighbor for his poverty. When money becomes a priority, it has become your god. The object consuming your heart, mind, and soul. You cannot serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money (Luke 16:13). When the scale of your heart (and mine) tips in favor of money, The Lord [swears]: “Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.
You know what? God has not forgotten the greed that exists in your heart (and mine). That name, ‘Lord,’ is capitalized for a reason. That name: ‘Lord’ tells you that God is (1) absolutely serious to punish greedy hearts and he is (2) absolutely serious to forgive greedy hearts. In fact, God is so serious that he swears by the ‘Pride of Jacob.’ That ‘Pride’ is himself. He promised Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, to send Jesus. Nations would rejoice in that forgiveness and Jacob’s family tree could rejoice in their great Descendant. God kept his oath. He sent Jesus.
Look at the scales of Jesus’ heart. The Jews offer him crown and throne; every physical need would be forever met! Yet, Jesus does not come to accumulate wealth (John 6:15). He comes to give. He gives bread and fish to thousands. He gives taxes to Caesar. He gives life to the lifeless without charge. Jesus comes into contact with money, but it never becomes his god. And that is what makes Jesus life’s most priceless treasure. Out of the billions of people who have lived, currently live, and will live, Jesus is the only Person who received God’s seal of approval (Matthew 3:17). And he gives that priceless seal to you.
God is so serious about greed that he condemns Jesus for our greed. He takes away help and rescue. He takes away life. That is what greed deserves— and Jesus made that payment. Now you stand ‘Not Guilty!’ Look at the cross. See Jesus pour his pure life into your spiritual account (and mine). See Jesus fill you with his perfection, his unblemished life, his innocence. See how Jesus has paid your complete price for heaven. Money will never satisfy that eternal debt. Yet, God’s mercy always overflows.
God has straightened out our bent hearts. Now our hearts look like this: Jesus’ payment for sin is far more valuable than money. Do you see what happened? The scales shifted. Money is not life’s most valuable item. If the heart does not consider Money ‘god,’ then it becomes something less than God. It becomes a ‘tool,’ an object used.
Have you ever thought of money like that? Money is received so that you can use to address your needs! The money you receive is used to satisfy hunger. The money you receive is used for home and heat so that you remain warm and safe. The money you receive is used for time off so you can relax. You save up money and use it when your body cannot handle work, when you need nursing home care, when you need to cover funeral expenses. Do you see what role money has in life? You use it, not hoard it!
That gives you the ability use money like a tool. You can use it for an offering. You actually give away something the world considers ‘valuable.’ Yet, giving an offering admits that your love for God trumps love for possessions. Giving an offering also allows God’s house to be maintained. To have lights and heat on. To enhance gathering places and maintain worship space. To support a Pastor who brings God’s Word to your heart each Sunday, in the hospital, at your house. To support a Pastor who teaches your children about God’s love and equips them for heaven. Your wealth (and mine) is a tool used to share God’s life-giving Word.
Prices will always rise. Healthcare expenses will always rise. Same with groceries and utilities and maintenance and college. Thank God that you have had enough. You have always had enough food for each day. You have not neglected your body because of cost. You may need equipment, but God provides a new furnace or used car. You may not attend university, but still get education in college. When you look and see needs met, you can thank God for giving us what we need.
Because money is a tool An object used. That’s why it does not carry a heavy place in the heart. We do not worship the object, but the One who gives! Money always leaves us and we thank God that he never does!
So, what has top value in your heart? Out of all the objects in this worldly life, only one holds eternal value. Fix your eyes on Jesus and you will Keep Balanced the Scales of Your Heart! You will see Worldly wealth never satisfies, but God’s mercy always overflows.
Where are you in the ‘Parable of the Lost Sheep’? I mean, did you feel pulled into the story? Try to place yourself into the setting of sheep and Shepherd, lost and found? The parable really wants you to choose a side, doesn’t it?
It’s important that you do. Jesus does not speak these words to first-century Jews only. The point of his parable carries eternal implications for all people of all time. That is why it is important for you to answer: Where are you in the ‘Parable of the Lost Sheep’?
Go back to our gospel lesson and you find two distinct groups, right? In Group #1, you have ninety-nine ‘found’ sheep. In Group #2, you have one ‘lost’ sheep. Those groups even have characteristics. In verse 7 Jesus says: I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. Who are those people? More importantly, where are you?
Well, look at verses 1 and 2. Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” No one likes the tax-man. He takes your hard-earned money and ships it off. None of your money goes towards improving your city. Instead, your taxes pay for extravagant projects done some 2,000-miles away in Rome! Yet, a bigger problem exists: The tax collector is a Jew! One of you! Your high-school classmate! Your next-door neighbor! Your brother-in-law! Someone who lives in your community and sees your struggles and hears your frustrations and knows for a fact that Rome cheats you— and still participate in this injustice! As if that was not bad enough, that Jewish traitor can deliberately overcharge you! If you owe $100, he could bill you for $200. He sends $100 to Rome (it keeps Rome happy) and then he pockets the other $100. You can do nothing about that because Rome’s own soldiers protect their man.
So, the Pharisees have marked this tax-collecting group as ‘beyond hope,’ ‘not-going-to-heaven.’ You know what? They would be right! Those tax collectors will never enter heaven without Jesus! So, Jesus sits with them. He exposes a heart that worships money more than God, a heart that deserves hell. Yet, Jesus does not stop teaching there. He points to himself; he reveals that his obedient life cures them.
In our parable, the tax collectors are the spiritually lost found by Jesus. That makes the Pharisees the ninety-nine who see no need to repent. Why would they? The Pharisees have already set themselves in the column: ‘loved-by-God.’ They go to ‘church’ and give big offerings. They dress in fancy clothes. They have respectable wives and well-behaved children. They commit no crimes and carry no moral baggage. The Pharisee feels God must welcome him into heaven because his life is superior.
That feeling of superiority has an effect. The Pharisee sees no need for Jesus because of their action. Then, the Pharisees resent the Word of Christ reaching a group deemed ‘undesirable.’ Just look at those messy lives! It might appear that certain groups are undeserving of a good thing like God’s love.
That attitude did not only exist years ago. It still erupts today. Our congregation recently collected money for a Pastor-Training Institute in Vietnam. Now Vietnamese pastors will receive better training to share God’s Word with the Vietnamese. Still, after the history of violence, crimes, and torture the Vietnamese inflicted on Americans, you might not wish to help them. Maybe those foreigners deserve hell— or, at the very least, maybe they do not deserve my support. Last Wednesday, you relived horrific terrorist attacks. Innocent thousands died and even more still suffer! It might have been difficult to think anything good of the Middle East— without even considering that those people without Christ will go to hell. Still, maybe you think: “Good riddance!”
We could bring our thoughts closer to home. Many in your community behave far different than you (and I). You may even realize those lives inflict negative consequences. The meth-house does not really seem deserving of Jesus; it seems more deserving of punishment! The scruffy guy always walking around town, well, he looks lazy. That laziness does not deserve free forgiveness! That stranger who walks into church at the last minute— frazzled and disruptive and acts weird— well, what is she doing here?
We could bring thoughts even closer home. You know people who have different values and priorities. Your child has not been in worship for a long time. Your brother, your sister may worship the lake. Your neighbor treats travel teams like God. So many other things take priority! Maybe you think: ‘That’s fine. God will have mercy on them. They are good people. They cannot possibly go to hell.’
How do we reach these conclusions? By my own standard. I pull out my behavior, my home life, my worship attendance and expect the world to be what I am. If that person fails to match up, then just leave them lost. Just like those Pharisees, my own heart can rank people as ‘worthy’ and ‘unworthy’ of Jesus. It boils down to me saying: “Well, I deserve forgiveness.” And Jesus says: “You have no idea how lost you are.”
So, Jesus searches. Isn’t that an astounding fact in this parable? Out of ninety-nine fluffy white bodies, Jesus actually notices one is missing— and he looks for it. He leaves heaven’s safety and puts on human flesh. He literally walks to hearts wandering in greed. He literally walks to hearts absolutely oblivious as to what happens after death. He literally walks to those who resist hearing a desperate need for the Savior. Jesus walked all over earth to rescue you. He walked into the death you earned and rescued you. He returns from death— alive! Alive, holding you alive in his hands.
Hearts can think only a select few deserve Jesus. Yet, this parable makes clear: The Lost Means the World to Jesus. That is why he searches for all. He wants all saved. We could put it this way: The Lost Means IS the ‘World’ to Jesus. He rejoices over the found.
[W]hen he has found [the lost], he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Do you see where you are? On the shoulders of Jesus!
When did that happen? Because maybe you don’t feel saved. Can you be sure that lie on Christ? Yes! [Y]ou who were baptized into Christ and have clothed yourselves with Christ (Galatians 3:27). In baptism God attached his Word to water. So, when you were baptized, he said, you carry the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). Yes, baptism has washed pride out of your (and my) heart. God does not recall your past. He does not lay out criteria you must meet before he will ever re-love you. Nope. He lays you on his shoulders and rejoices. He carries you into the family of believers with hop-in-step. It’s like he’s holding back from breaking out in a sprint! The Lost Means the World to Jesus. He rejoices over the found.
Yet, God is not the only one rejoicing. Neighbors and friends rejoice. They so desperately want the lost found, and so they rejoice as another lost is found! Those neighbors and friends are you.
Did you know that on an average Sunday, about half of our fellow believers do not worship? You know those faces. You watched them baptized. You heard them, on their Confirmation Day, promise to regularly hear the Word and receive the Lord’s Supper. They confessed their faults, heard God’s forgiveness, listened to the same messages you do. They are not here! Some worship only Christmas and Easter. Others barely come at all. Does that bother you?
Dear friend, those who love Christ love hearing his Word. Love for Christ does not make up excuses to be out of church. Love for Christ does not pack weekends with camping and fishing. Love for Christ does not brag that they already know everything about the Bible (and so they do not need to hear anymore). No, love for Christ finds reasons to be with God (read Hebrews 10:25 and John 8:31). Step back for a moment and see to whom Jesus speaks. You have Pharisees and tax collectors, the curious and the disciples. Understand, it is not only the Pastor’s job to go and reach the drifting. It is our job— together.
We gain motivation when we go back to these words and see where we stand in this parable. You are that once lost, now found sheep. You did not deserve rescue, you needed rescue. So, Jesus made you his priority and he rejoices over that!
Those drifting are worth our time. Each soul is worth our effort of hearing the gospel. Maybe your daughter who has not been in worship for a while. She’s just ‘taking a break from church,’ as she puts it. Maybe your friend is completely oblivious to anything ‘God.’ He just feels that everything will be alright in the end. Maybe you recognize a few faces you have not seen for a while. You really just do not know where they are. It is incredibly easy to say nothing, but then again, someone shared Jesus with you.
As able, take the opportunity to seek the stray. Use your own words and tell your child why you find worship important. Share your experience. Share your comfort. Share what you gain. Invite your neighbor to church— but do more than that. Tell them why you want them in church. Tell them about heaven after death. Tell them that you stand absolutely certain of heaven because of Jesus. Pray for the wandering. Pray that someone brings news of Jesus to the meth-house. Pray that violent nations find peace in Jesus. Pray for courage to welcome those walking by your church into church.
The Lost Means the World to Jesus. The world. Everyone. Seeing how Jesus gave up the world for you, you rejoice that Jesus gave all for the world.
The ‘Parable of the Lost Sheep’ pulls you into its story. It puts you in the setting of sheep and Shepherd, lost and found. It does that because Jesus in not speaking to first-century Jews only. He speaks to you.
The point of his parable carries eternal implications. You, once lost, now stand found. How humbling to see how undeserving we were! How amazing to see how rich we are! Now found, you, like Jesus, seek the lost because The Lost Means the World to Jesus.
There is probably no greater blessing/curse than the forward facing camera on a smartphone. Yes, this tiny invention paved the way for the “selfie.” (Now, to have a common definition, a ‘selfie’ is a ‘self-photograph,’ a picture you take of yourself.) You can include yourself in a picture of friends. You can show an outfit instead of describing what you wore. You can insert yourself in front of mountains and monuments without having to find someone to take your picture. Selfies unlock opportunities for uniquely different memories.
… But then you have that disturbing news report from a few years ago… A surveillance camera in downtown Pittsburgh captured a woman assaulted and left unconscious. The attack happened in public; witnesses instantly swarm this victim— but things got strange from there. A group whips out their phones, but they do not dial 911. They stand there and record videos. One man even marches right up to this woman, kneels down, and records a close up. Then, another guy lies down right next to her and takes a selfie! No one helps! Not a single person calls 911! This woman lies motionless until she regains consciousness. (https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2017/10/26/get-marty-beechview-woman-knocked-out-video/)
How terrible! Maybe more terrifying is the gnawing, never-satisfied hunger for more attention. The human heart indulges in such selfish attention-seeking just to puff up pride. God dismantles even our selfish, self-centered cravings with one simple question: What More Do You Need?
Just think about that. What has God done for you? These closing chapters of Hebrews string together this unbroken, flowing truth: Jesus Christ is all you need! Only Jesus completely cancelled out God’s anger over what you (and I) have done wrong. Because of Jesus, you now stand before the Judge of all things without fear. You have the assurance of eternal life in heaven! You have the assurance that God hears you, cares for you, provides for you! From that point of view, you must admit: There is really nothing more you need. It does not matter how many ‘likes’ your Facebook post gets or how many friends you have. It does not matter how much money you make. It does not matter your job title— if you are the mayor or a manager or general labor. None of that matters because the only thing you can take out of this life is trust in Jesus as Savior. What More Do You Need? Only Jesus provides real value.
Lose sight of that and then you begin sinking into the world’s standard of value. A standard continuously snatching for more attention, more praise, more respect. Care for your brother? Only when convenient! Only when people can see you and praise your leadership and praise your talents. Only when you gain a sense of feeling good after giving to charity or sacrificing time. Only when your Christian friend is nice to you first. How selfish! To serve only when your ego stands to benefit! Be hospitable? Warm and friendly? That means caring for each other just as you care for your family. That means giving up time talking with friends and welcoming someone (in church) who looks lost and unsure. That means paying attention to the physical limitations of that elderly lady. That takes effort! That takes time! You are too busy! You have to focus on yourself! Hospitality sounds pretty inconvenient. Our selfish hearts can even label God’s commandments ‘Inconvenient.’ Honor marriage? That command does not satisfy pleasures; it does not make you feel happy. In fact, that command makes you stand out, and then people call you names and that does not feel great. So, you lay aside God’s unbreakable command for the sake ego. For the sake of pride. For the sake of convenience. That’s dangerous.
A selfish heart thinks it has the right to strut up to the King of the Universe and explain how you will live and then expects God to accept it. That is a form of insubordination! That is a form of rebellion against God— and God will not put up with it. Those who think so highly of themselves and live convinced that God must accept your pride, will be forever humbled.
Really, What More Do You Need? Right in the middle of our reading God zeroes in on the one thing needed. Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have… Yes, God specifically addresses greed, but he teaches something broader: Contentment. Contentment with your finances. Contentment with your status. Contentment with your time, your achievements, your relationships, your identity as God’s child. Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have… Why? because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.
God cannot stress that promise enough. (Remember, the New Testament is written in Greek. The Greek translation uses five negatives in one sentence. Our English language does not do that!) God literally says: ‘I will never ever desert you [it is impossible to do so], nor will I ever forsake you [it is impossible to do that].’ Jesus will never leave you in eternal shame; it is impossible. For proof of that just look at the cross.
You (and I) stand empty-handed before God, holding nothing that he wants. Yet, Jesus purges pride and fills your (and my) empty heart with his undivided love and loyalty to God. This is what Jesus accomplished for you (and me). The cross has forever linked him to you. What More Do You Need? Really, if you have Jesus, What More Do You Need? Because Only Jesus provides real value.
That changes perspective. We can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” Humanity can do nothing! Yes, your paycheck might be short some dollars, but that’s alright! Your bank account means nothing in the grand scheme of eternity! Yes, your sister’s drama might never stop, but that’s alright! Getting the last word, looking smug means nothing in the grand scheme of eternity! Yes, the world might look at you weird for saying, “Wait until marriage,” but that’s alright! Your god is not popularity, opinions mean nothing in the grand scheme of eternity! Humanity cannot forever shame you because Jesus has forever exalted you!
Jesus laid aside attention, praise, and respect in order to make you eternally rich! That means you, as someone connected to God, are not out gaining more attention, praise, and respect. You already have it all! It means you live opposite the world: giving attention, praise, and respect.
Stop for a moment and consider those who gave. Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you… Think how your Sunday School teacher gave up Saturday night preparing Bible lessons and gave up her Sunday morning in order to bring Jesus to you. Consider the Pastor who wanted to teach you God’s love even though you, as a teenager, maybe did not want to listen— and still he patiently taught! Recall that kind grandmotherly-lady who could have huddled with friends her age, but instead went out of the way to talk to you. Remember that Christian friend who addressed your sinful living. He risked friendship; he did not seek pride. He wanted to keep you close to God. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Remember those who gave so that you have! Consider that you may be the Sunday School teacher with an already-busy-schedule. You might be that teenager who really does not want to be in catechism class. You might be that grandparently-person. Just as your leaders laid aside ego in order to touch you with God’s love, you may now be those leaders to benefit others!
Continue keeping in center focus the love Christ has for you, the love which moved others to love you. Only Jesus stimulates willing service.
A willing service like loving each other as brothers… That is what you are: brothers and sisters. God looks past your family tree and points at the one thing we all have in common: faith in Jesus as Savior. Since you are connected to Christ …and you are connected to Christ …and you are (and so on…) Keep on loving each other as brothers. Maybe you get called names when you approach a child about returning to worship. Maybe no one praises you for a generous offering or hours of volunteering. Maybe your abilities are not needed at this moment. That’s fine! Your motivation for service is not about what you can gain. Jesus, who gave you his all, motivates you to give all.
Do not forget to entertain strangers… People move often— away from classmates, away from familiar communities, away from family support. That means, a group of believers quickly becomes a family. Even though you belong to this ‘family’ now, be willing to include more. Lean over and ask the person next to you how the week went. Welcome a new face. Ask where he lives; that always creates discussion. Simply acknowledging presence makes a person feel welcome.
Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners… because prisoners are out of sight— and can fall out of mind. Pray for those in prison, pray they may know Jesus, the One who freed them from the shackles of hell. Yet, pray also for Christians around the world, those who have done no wrong, but languish in prison simply because they worship Christ. Pray that God sends people to comfort them. Pray that God uses government to free them. Pray that God strengthens their resolve to rely on him more.
Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure… Yes, today’s society considers marriage something ‘good’ and ‘harmful,’ something ‘beneficial’ and ‘not needed.’ Yet, God created marriage to be a blessing, something that fills you with satisfaction, commitment, and companionship. If those you do not see those blessings, it does not come through any fault of God. (So do not blame him!) Instead, those tensions come from proud hearts refusing to love the other. Have the awkward conversations; point your children, siblings, friends to the joys God gives in marriage. Aim to serve them spiritually, leading them out from under God’s wrath.
Dear friends, What More Do You Need? If you already have faith, then you already have life’s real treasure! You have no greater status to grab after. Instead, you realize you have much to give. Jesus stimulates willing service.
That will stand out in the world. It appears so many live infatuated with themselves. Taking selfies for more attention. Fixating on popularity. Reaching for more social standing. The human heart indulges in such selfish attention-seeking just to puff up pride— a pride that considers you ‘God.’
God dismantles selfish, self-centered cravings with one simple question: What More Do You Need? Really. Only Jesus provides real value— and fills you with a treasure that lasts forever. You already have everything needed. Because you do, Jesus stimulates us for willing service.
I am always struck by that one little sentence that comes out of Jesus’ mouth: The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop (Luke 12:16). We can easily pass over those words. After all, the spotlight really shines on a farmer, right? A rich farmer. He harvests lush fields, stuffs hay into mammoth barns, and packs silos with corn, oats, and beans. He can withdraw from storage anytime he needs money. He lacks nothing— and never will again. Nothing! …except you know how the account ends. God stoops down, looks this misguided farmer in the eye. ‘You fool!’ The farmer, a fool! Why? Because of that easily overlooked sentence: The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop.
Do you grasp the significance of those words? The farmer did not crack open the seed. He did not pull out roots and pour water into each tiny root hair. He did not stretch out stalks and leaves. He did not push out cobs and pods. The farmer did absolutely nothing! The ground did everything! The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop— and arrogance thinks he controls the future of his life. That he holds in his brain and barns all he needs for life happily ever after! What. a. fool. All the wealth in his barns cannot keep secure earthly life and it certainly cannot open eternal life! How foolish to latch onto earthly things!
Still it happens. Money, power, status, pleasure exist. Their existence in this world grab at you (and me), threatening to make us fools. You (and I) live in this world, but remember this: you are not of this world. Your goals, your attitude is different. You Have Been Raised in Christ. Put to death the sinful nature and Set your mind on things above.
That might be difficult. On the one hand, you have a unique identity; you stand on God’s side. Remember what God said to you last week? [You have] been buried with [Christ] in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God… (Colossians 2:12). That means your baptism did something; it connected you to Christ Jesus. [A]ll of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ (Galatians 3:27). Picture it: God has put Jesus on you— the innocence, the blamelessness, the perfection. So, right here, right now, this moment you are spiritually clean, spotless, unstained—even while alive in this world.
That’s where the difficulty creeps in. Not everyone loves God. We have friends that do not go to church, friends that deny God’s existence, friends that mock Christianity. Co-workers cuss, spew out filthy jokes, and brag about last night’s conquests. Your family may never apologize for hurting you and they may deliberately act like the past never happened. You (and I) live among people who dislike putting God’s expectations into practice. Then there’s the life you (and I) live in this world. You (and I) need a certain amount of money for food, housing, health, vehicle, maintenance. You (and I) really enjoy trips away, activities in the woods and on the lakes. You, like me, probably crave security and comfort. You (and I) must use worldly items in order to stay alive.
That’s fine! God does not command you to avoid all non-Christian people and things and form Christian-only communities in some desolate wasteland. No, God has placed you into this world with the intention that you live in this world. What God does command is this: Put to death therefore what is earthly in you… There’s that word again: ‘earthly.’ Everything the world praises and God condemns. [S]exual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.
Is that what you do? Do you [p]ut to death what is earthly? Does your body belong to your spouse alone? [Grand]Parents, do you teach your [grand]children that sex is meant for marriage? Do you flee fantasies by changing channels or leaving that website? Even more, do you remind one another how to properly discuss the opposite sex? Do you work towards contentment in your marriage— not wishing that you were with ‘Joe Perfect’ or ‘Nancy Wonderful’? Experienced spouses— do you help strengthen bonds of troubled marriages? Do you remind others that the world’s view of ‘living together’ is not God’s view? Yes, God zeroes in on sexual temptations, but he does not suggest this group contains the worst sins imaginable. Instead, he takes these common temptations and lumps them into a broader category: idolatry. ‘Idolatry’: ‘Worshipping something not God.’ When our views of relationships conform to our standards instead of God’s, then we have fallen into idolatry. We are following our decisions. then who are we following? We are treating ourselves with greater respect. We lay aside God’s Word and worship our word.
That is a serious matter. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. Understand, God’s wrath is not coming against those we consider ‘bad’ or we think deserve it. God’s wrath, his damnation to hell, targets all those who trash these words in sheer rejection. That leaves one final searching question: Has this world rubbed off on you?
In these you (and I) too once walked. Yes. ‘Once.’ Maybe you still shiver at high school regrets. Maybe you cannot stop replaying foolish nights. Or, maybe you find yourself still struggling with those temptations and sins— but that’s the key: you struggle. Your attitude once delighted wallowing in moral filth, but now you have changed.
At your baptism, God drowned the sinful nature; he took those immoral desires, filled its lungs with water, stripped away its life, killed it, murdered it. He pulled you up out of the water and left the sinful nature floating behind. God raised you up morally pure, spiritually clean, past erased. You Have Been Raised in Christ.
Since you stand on the side of Christ, you live in ways that characterize someone living on the side of Christ. (1) You put to death the sinful nature. You dread living in ways God hates. You strive to do what is right because that is who you are: A person of the light. You Have Been Raised in Christ (2) So, set your mind on things above.
If then you have been raised with Christ (¥ that describes you!) seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. Literally: set your mind on heaven. Look at the place above. Consider the place you enter after earth. Remember that perfect, tear-free, pain-free place as your final goal. Set your mind on things above because this is the place that is real. Think about that: The world which we see is not truly ‘real.’ Yes, we have tangible items, real emotions, and we are bound by time. Still, this world ends when time ends. We either leave behind all our valuables, possessions, status, and goals in death, or they leave us in decay, or they leave us when Christ returns. All those things end— but you (and I) enter eternity—something that has been and always will be there.
The things of heaven are ‘real.’ Christ ascended and remains at God’s right hand. He stands on the other side of eternity where we will one day enter. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. That picture feels unreal. When you see Jesus you will clearly see yourself as God has dressed you. Innocent. Faultless. Pure. No more struggling with temptation. No more hurting loved ones and being hurt by loved ones. No more shameful regrets haunting you; no more actions that you will regret. You will stand in glory with Christ. You can set your mind on heaven above.
Yet, you can do that now. You already live as God’s pure child. Remember, baptism whisked you into God’s believing group— maybe as an infant, in your childhood, or as an adult. You behavior on God’s side is this: Put aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Does that describe you? It does not describe me. Still, I remain a child of God. We go back to the baptismal waters and there see a reflection of who we truly are. Forgiven. Still standing on the side of Christ. Renewed in our desire to live on the side of Christ.
Christ has stripped off of you (and me) acts of jealousy, bitterness, resentment, and rage. He never brings it up again. Because of that incredible love, we are motivated to strip off jealousy, bitterness, resentment, and rage. No, not for Christ to love us more. Rather, because he already loved us and put on us a new self, created to be like him. You Have Been Raised in Christ. So, set your mind on things above.
Unlike that farmer. He harvests lush fields, stuffs hay into mammoth barns, and packs silos with corn, oats, and beans. He can withdraw from storage anytime he needs money. He lacks nothing— and never will again. Nothing! And that’s great! …except that his heart latches onto earthly things. All the wealth in his barns cannot keep secure earthly life and it certainly cannot open eternal life!
Neither can the things of this world. The money, power, and status amounts to nothing eternally. They are blessings enjoyed now. Worldly objectives of pleasure and rebellious freedom and self-reliance do not bring you (and me) closer to God. They drive us away.
You (and I) live in this world, but remember this: you are not of this world. We enjoy the items and people in this world, but we do not cherish them over the Word of our God. Set apart as people who are different, we put to death the sinful nature, continue keeping items as they are. Since You Have Been Raised in Christ, set your mind on things above. For that is life’s real goal.
He worked for the Chrysler Corporation in the development and research department. Fifteen years into his career, he developed a car engine that reached 60-miles-per-gallon. This was the late 1960s. Perhaps those with keen insights saw the oil crisis creeping into America. So, this highly efficient engine would save money, save gas, and save the freedom to travel anywhere anytime.
That engine never reached production. This man shared the discovery with corporate leadership, but within weeks, executives from the Shell Corporation strutted into his department. They bought the patent to the engine. As the new owners, they removed the engine, the diagrams, and schematics and forbade him to infringe on their copyright.
Why would an oil company want the patent to a high-efficient engine? So that people keep buying gas. That reason is selfish. The engine could be used for good: it could save money, save resources, lead to better development. Yet, the corporation took something good and used it for their own good. What does this say about the human heart?
God gives good blessings, like one common language. One language to encourage each other. To work together. To tell of God’s love. Yet, one common language is used for selfish pursuits— the same problem with language today. Instead of using language to gain personal comfort, Use Your Language as the Blessing It Is! Use it to share God’s Name. Use it to unite God’s kingdom.
In our Old Testament selection, you read: Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. You could expect that. This account happened shortly after the worldwide flood. These people are all relatives of the one man, Noah. Coming from one big family means they share one common language.
That language would provide convenience. One language means clear communication of desires, intentions, and instructions. No Spanish, no English, no Hindi or Mandarin; you can understand your doctor or the tech support on the phone. Everyone comprehends a common lingo. All know that ‘pop,’ ‘soda,’ and ‘Coke’ are the same beverage and that the Party Store does not carry party supplies. One common language allows for efficient, easy communication.
You watch this group use one common language quite efficiently. [P]eople migrated from the east, [and] they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” [T]hey had brick for stone, and [tar] for mortar. The plan is to settle permanently. Kiln-dried bricks last longer than clay bricks. Tar does not crumble away like mortar. That does not sound too remarkable except for one fact: God commanded this people, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth” (Genesis 9:1). These seemingly-innocent intentions intentionally disobey God.
That’s not my interpretation; that’s their motive. [T]hey said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens… For what purpose? [L]et us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.
God blesses all people with one common language. A language to share the promise of Jesus with children. A language to encourage those in despair and depressed. A language to celebrate the ways God led you through problems. You can use language to share God’s ‘Name;’ you can use language to communicate God’s reputation, behavior, and characteristics. Yet, this group uses one common language for attention. They want everyone to admire their planning, marvel at the construction, and praise their intellect and foresight. One common language is not used to bring glory to God. One common language is used to bring glory to humanity.
The sinful human heart can warp the greatest of God’s blessings for the most self-serving of purposes. And Christian congregations wrestle with that same sinful heart. You see, congregations get excited when they first form. Members eagerly invite friends, co-workers, strangers to worship. Volunteers arrive early Sunday morning to a rental space and set up chairs, furnishings, and refreshments. This group of believers strive to strengthen faith by promoting Sunday School and attending Bible Class. Momentum rolls. The congregation grows spiritually, they grow in numbers. Soon they plan a permanent worship space. A loan is secured. People give towards the building project, the congregation keeps reaching out, construction begins, the building finishes… and then the focus shifts. As soon as a building exists the focus can suddenly turn inward.
The attention shifts from ‘How can I share Jesus?’ to ‘How can I use this space for me?’ Church Council meetings mainly dwell on budgets and maintenance. Unfiltered opinions fly about carpet color, but very few concerns are raised about the straying. Personal expectations— like what the Pastor wears and what color hymnal to use— are emphasized more than God’s expectations. You see, we may not construct a tower that reaches the heavens, but, you (and I) can use our Christian knowledge to build a church the reaches self-serving interests. Yes, this building no longer becomes a place to know Jesus, to grow in Jesus, to share Jesus. Rather, this building becomes a haven of comfort where I demand all worship my interests.
God, in complete undeserved mercy, intervenes. [T]he Lord came down [and saw] the city and the tower, which the children of man had built… and in serious love said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.” The Lord is not threatened by this independence; rather, independence threatens the group! This tower grows from stubborn disobedience. If nothing changes, their egos will soar as high as that tower, but they will never reach heaven. They will sink like a brick into hell. So, the Lord confuses their language so they will not understand each other. This verbal boundary stopped a proud pursuit and forced many to reconsider life’s real purpose: Giving praise to the Lord.
That is the reason you (and I) are here. Someone with a common language shared God’s Name with you. Maybe a stranger told you about a God who loved the world. Perhaps a mother read how the sinless Son of God was born. A Pastor might have explained that Jesus carried your (and my) pride to the cross and buried it. You (and I) believe this truth. That is what we call ‘faith.’ Because of faith, God leads you to the cross and in a language you clearly understand says, ‘I love you. I died for you. I saved you.’
What awesome words God puts into our hearts and on our lips! The language of faith is a blessing. You can take your faith and use your English words to communicate what God has done. Yes, use your English words to point to Jesus. Point each other to the grace of God. Point those outside this worship space to the love of God. Keep pointing— not to your preferences, but to God’s Savior. Use Your Language as the Blessing It Is! Use it to share God’s Name. Use it to unite God’s kingdom.
Remember, God’s ‘kingdom’ is not heaven. God’s ‘kingdom’ is not some location with walls, armies, and a government. God’s ‘kingdom’ is God ruling your heart. For example, you might say that a loved one has your heart. Of course, they do not literally hold your heart in their hands. Rather, the thought of that loved one consumes your thinking.
In the same way, God’s powerful actions and guiding Word consumes your thinking, shapes your words, and guides your actions. So, when you pray in the Lord’s Prayer: ‘Thy [Your] kingdom come,’ you are asking God to bring many more people to faith. One way God answers that prayer is through language.
[T]he Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel—because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth. Some leave angry and frustrated. Their ego did not tower as planned— at least, not in the way they wanted. So, some of these nations channeled their pride into idols. Those who craved pleasure made sex-gods. Those who wanted power made lightning-gods. Nervous farmers made gods to make crops grow. They failed to learn from Babel’s catastrophe that they are to obey God.
Others did learn. They turned from pride and turned to God. Immediately after this account, you see Abram listen to God (Genesis 12:1). Abram used his language to tell his son, Isaac, about the Savior. Isaac used his language to tell his son, Jacob, about the Savior. Jacob used his language to tell his sons about the Savior. They Used Language as the Blessing It Is and used it to unite God’s kingdom. God worked through language to create faith.
That is why you are here today. God worked through language to bring you into his kingdom. Consider how that happened. Congregations in Germany provided significant funding for the newly planted churches in America. When immigrants stepped into America, they had a familiar church home waiting for them. In fact, you have been directly impacted by those monies. The money from Germany funded American congregations. Those American congregations funded the founding of Michigan Lutheran Seminary (in Saginaw). Pastors from MLS served your congregation for almost 20-years. Those in Germany, with a different language, different culture, different jobs— you may never have met them and they have never met you, but you benefit from their efforts. They used their blessings to be a blessing for you.
God brought you into his kingdom through language too. For a while, your congregation [St. John] used German in worship. After World War I, emigration from Germany slowed, and most first-generation Americans spoke English. Americans still prefer English today. So, in the 1940s your church stopped using German! They switched to English! It probably felt strange at first! But your Christian friends thought about you! For those of you who speak English [all of you], you benefit from that change. They used the English language to bring you into God’s kingdom.
Now you stand in this line. You get to use your English language to unite God’s kingdom, to clearly communicate God’s love to each other and the world. You give offerings so your children may worship here, and their children, and children to come. One day those children will point to you as the ones who shared Jesus. The Vietnamese will point to the newly constructed center as the tool used to share God’s Word in their language. Faith Lutheran (of Harrison) can point to you as the reason a congregation opened in their city. Strangers will walk into your church building because they understood your invitation. Dear friends, Use Your Language as the Blessing It Is! Use it to unite God’s kingdom.
It might be difficult because we still have sinful hearts. Those sinful hearts are selfish. We often act only when we benefit. We speak when we get something for ourselves. We refuse accommodating others because it forces us to change. We can use good blessings for self-centered purposes.
Yet, God rules our hearts. He has sent the Holy Spirit into our lives so that we can be his children. The Holy Spirit equips us to behave like people belonging to God. See how he Uses Your Language as the Blessing It Is! Use it to share God’s Name. Use it to unite God’s kingdom.
It started off so easy. A father and his young son strolled down a flat, sandy nature trail. The further the two hiked, the more rugged the trail grew. Boulders littered the path, forcing both hikers to squeeze around them. Thigh-deep creeks sliced the trail in two, making them wade through churning currents. Trees had fallen on the path, leaving them no choice but to hop up and over the slimy, mossy bark. Finally, after hours of climbing and shuffling, reaching and grabbing, they saw the trail’s end. It meant no more obstacles, no more exhausting effort, no more struggles. All that separated them from reaching the goal was a deep chasm.
Father and son scoured the area for a bridge, but found nothing. They searched for the start of this chasm with the hope of walking around it, but it stretched both ways for miles. The only way over this challenge was over a fallen oak tree that bridged this great divide.
Father went first. His eyes locked onto the end of the trail. He carefully placed one foot on the log, and then heaved his entire weight onto the tree. One foot slid ahead of the other foot. He crept forward inch-by-inch, safely reaching the other side.
Turning around, he called out for his son to cross. Yet, the son sees so many things around him— so many dangers, curiosities, fears. He questions the sturdiness of the tree. He wonders what joys might lie on his side of the divide. He fears the raging waters could drown him. So many distractions pull on him, but the father calls, ‘Keep your eyes on me.’
Keep your eyes on me. Last Thursday marked the ascension of Jesus Christ; Jesus crossed from earth into heaven. You (and I) still stand on the other side— in a world that puts a constant strain on your faith. Still, Jesus says: ‘Keep your eyes on me!’ He prepares you for the Final Day. So, Live prepared for the Day. In his final Revelation, Jesus reveals earthly strength and eternal comfort with these words: “Behold, I am coming soon!”
He makes that promise not just once, but three times in one single chapter. Three times! …and twice in our selected verses! (Revelation 22:7, 12, 20): “Behold, I am coming soon!” That is true. That is a fact. The entire Bible confirms that. On the chosen day, at the precise second, [t]he Son of Man [will come] on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other… And so we will be with the Lord forever (Matthew 24:30-31; 1 Thessalonians 4:17). You stand so certain of Jesus’ return that you confess it to be true [in the Apostle’s Creed]: I believe that… Jesus will come to judge the living and the dead. Yes, Jesus is Coming Soon.
How many times did that phrase cross your mind this morning? “Today could be the day! Today I might step foot into my heavenly home! Today I could see Jesus with my eyes! Today Jesus could come!” Honestly? I did not— apart from prepping for this sermon. Jesus has been gone 2,000 years. That is not our definition of ‘soon.’ In fact, the Twelve disciples said Jesus would return ‘soon’ (Romans 13:11; James 5:8). I imagine Christians 500-years ago waited for Jesus. My grandparents believed Jesus would return. Yet, nothing! Jesus did not return on a predicted date. He did not return when one group waited for him. He has not returned in my lifetime. Jesus promises to come ‘soon,’ but millennia have passed. So, honestly, that is why this thought never enters my mind. If Jesus has not returned by now, it appears the likelihood of his return is still far off.
That, dear friends, leads to a very dangerous temptation. If we feel Jesus will not return in 10-years …10-months …10-days …10-minutes, we can let our faith-life slip. We figure there will always be time to address sin later. To grow in our faith later. To repent of a pleasurable wrong later.
Jesus’ response to that is: Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. Jesus will examine every single heart. He will find hearts that stubbornly boast: “Jesus, I refuse to match my relationship to your commands. I do not want to obey you.” Jesus will find hearts that arrogantly sneer: “Jesus, I doubt that you created the world. I doubt that you actually did miracles. I doubt you really saved me. I doubt your life changed mine” Jesus will find hearts boldly bragging: “Jesus, I will not love my neighbor as myself. I don’t need to.” Jesus can even find those hearts sitting here, in a church, for decades. Hearts almost daring him: “You are not here yet. You will not return. I still have time.” Jesus will give that heart hell.
That’s why he says it not just once, but three times in one single chapter: “Behold, I am coming soon!” (Revelation 22:7, 12, 20) Yes, Jesus will give to everyone according to what he has done— including you (and me)!
Ah! We are by no means perfect! And sometimes we even deliberately do what is wrong! What will he give us? A ‘life’-sentence. Life! God levied against Jesus a punishment that corresponds to all we have done. Yes, he slaps Jesus for stubborn boasting. He pulverizes Jesus for our arrogant sneering. He gives Jesus hell. The innocent blood of Jesus spills from his veins, and God takes you (and me), dips us in that innocent blood, and washes us. He scrubs away boasting. He purifies foolish arrogance. He lifts off death. Plug yourself into verse 14. ‘Blessed are you who have washed your robes, so that you may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates of the city.’ Jesus describes what he has done for you! Jesus prepares you for life!
Then he ascends into heaven to prepare a room for you. If he has gone to prepare a room for you, he will then come back so that you also may be where he is(John 14:2-3). Right now, we have the right to the tree of life— the tree found in the Garden of Eden, the tree that brings unending life (Genesis 2:9; 3:22-24). You have life reserved in heaven. You will feast on that tree in perfection forever!
Jesus guarantees it. “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.” “I am showing you what will happen. I am showing you the future.” One day the future will be your present.
Yes, we stand on the earthly side of the divide. Jesus has crossed into heaven, but has not left you orphaned (John 14:18). He turns to say: I am Coming Soon! I have prepared you for the Day. Now, Live prepared for the Day.
How? Keep focused on your eternal home. You have help. The [Holy] Spirit says: “Come!” You, come! Approach these words. The Holy Spirit compels us to rejoice in what God prepares for you. He deepens our appreciation that God prepares heaven for you. He tightens your fingers around the splendid truth that God has made you his special child— that you live shaped by his Word because you are his child.
You are the bride of Christ. The bride, that is, every believer married to Jesus by faith, says, “Come!” You carry those words to each other. You say them to yourself. “Come! Come and see Jesus rule. Come and see Jesus watch you. Come and see Jesus strengthen you. Come to these words. As the bride of Christ, each day you take another step down the wedding aisle towards your groom. Live with a heart filled with love for the One who loved you. That is how you live prepared for the Day.
There’s more! [L]et him who hears say, “Come!” The ‘one who hears’ is you. ‘ You’ tell the world: ‘Come!’ Because the world needs to hear that message. Your children may be wandering spiritually. What do you say to them? After all, they are adults. They are exposed to a world that creates the beliefs it wants to believe. They make their own decisions. What do you say when a child who once knew Jesus now no longer worships him? What do you say when your son leaves what you taught him for a church that satisfies his ideas? What do you say to a daughter that always has an excuse to stay out of worship? It’s easy to say nothing .It’s easy to shrug off the false things your child hears about Jesus. It’s easy to surrender parental responsibilities. Yes, your child may be an adult. Yes, your child may make their own decisions. Yet, you have God’s truth. You have a message of God freely, completely washing you in the blood of Jesus— a message very few churches openly embrace, a message a nonbelieving world will never understand without hearing (Romans 10:17). So, how do you respond? [L]et him who hears say, “Come!” “Come, son, and listen to the Bible.” “Come, Daughter, and see your Savior.” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life. Nothing satisfies more on a hot, humid day than ice-cold, refreshing water. Nothing satisfies both conscience and heart, more than knowing a Jesus who is coming soon! Coming not in terror, but with healing in his wings. You know Jesus is Coming Soon! Live prepared for the Day.
Jesus is Coming Soon! He can, because everything needed to save you is complete. He does not need to battle Satan again. He does not need to die again. He does need to offer new payment for sin. All is done! All has been accepted for your benefit!
Jesus crossed from earth into heaven. You (and I) still stand on the other side— in a world that puts a constant strain on your faith. Still, Jesus says: ‘Keep your eyes on me!’ He prepares you for the Day. So, Live prepared for the Day. Keep turning for what is wrong. Keep clinging to my forgiveness. Keep coming to the Word and drinking that refreshing revelation. Life has an end— and you will walk across the divide into life eternal. He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
The Carnival cruise ship, Triumph, towers about 140-feet high (that’s about the height of our city’s water tower. It measures just under 900-feet long (about the distance from this church to the Doherty Hotel). It can hold 2,754 guests (about the city population of Clare) on its thirteen decks. Four glass elevators whisk you from deck to deck, to jewelry stores and gift shops, to mini golf, to a casino with 60 slot machines, to an underground-themed arcade, to spas and saunas, to the sky lounge. A multilevel water park sprawls across the three upper decks. On the top, a waterslide stretches two-stories down. The midlevel deck has concession stands, tables, and cabanas. The lowest deck has a pool with water guns, smaller slides, wave pools, hot tubs. In case of a Caribbean thunderstorm, a retractable roof covers everyone up. If hungry, you have burger joints, Mexican restaurants, seafood, a pizza place, coffee bars, dozens of breakfast places, or you can order room service. And then, let’s not forget, this is a cruise! Triumph chugs from Caribbean island to Caribbean island so that you can take in some local life. This ship lacks absolutely nothing. It is a floating paradise.
Yet, on February 10, 2013, a fire in the engine room killed all power to the ship. No thrust, leaving Triumph aimlessly drifting in the Caribbean Sea at 5 to 8 miles-per-hour. No electricity for refrigerators holding red meat, seafood, chicken, dairy, and ice. No engines powering air conditioning, pool pumps, or bathrooms. Without the engine all those splendidly exquisite amenities sat useless. No one could enjoy anything the ship offered.
We have spent the last two weeks identifying spiritual gifts God gives and how your gifts benefit the body of Christ. Today, God highlights the one key component giving power to all those splendidly exquisite gifts. A necessary component so that we use our gifts for good. An essential component so that others might benefit from what we offer. One Love Motivates All Service. A love not seeking to get, but A love seeking to give.
So, let’s look at [1 Corinthians, chapter 13] verses 4-7. Here you see God define ‘love’ and explain how ‘love’ operates. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Now, in the English language, we have only one word for love. You can say you “love” a hamburger, “love” your friend, and “love” your spouse. The way you are using the word “love” in each of those statements is a little different. So, you have to understand the context in order to know what type of “love” is being shown to a hamburger, your friend, and your spouse.
The Greek language uses three different words for “love”— and 1 Corinthians is written in Greek. One word for “love” is (1) eros [ἔρως]— a romantic love between husband and wife. Another word is (2) phileo [φιλέω]— a friendship love. The other word is (3) agape [ἀγάπη]— which describes loving someone even when they do not deserve it. So, when God says, Love is patient, love is kind… he is using one of those three Greek words. Here, he uses the word: ‘agape’— a love shown to the unlovable. ‘Agape’ love never wonders: “How will I benefit?” Instead, ‘agape’ love always asks: “What can I do for the benefit of others?”
In case you wonder how this applies to your life, God lists some examples. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love-- if I am not thinking about how my speaking will benefit my fellow believer-- I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. I benefit no one because I refuse to reveal the meaning of the words. I only sing sweet angelic songs so that others might see me do something they cannot. I serve only to draw attention to myself. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. That is me flaunting spiritual gifts so that I look superior! Superiority causes me to look down on others. I am using my spiritual gifts to inflict pain. Maybe you stand firm in the face of cancer, and then mock a friend who struggles. “Why can’t you be more like me?” Perhaps you can clearly explain the difference between the ‘Will of God’ and the ‘Providence of God,’ but you do so for the sole purpose of appearing smart. You really want others to hover around your superior intellect. Or, you parade knowledge to shame others for not knowing as much as you do. Then they will not waste your valuable time with their so-called ‘dumb’ questions. Then they avoid challenging your beliefs. You are using your gifts to hurt. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. You can donate your car, your house, your clothes, all your savings to charity, but if you do all this so that we may praise your generosity, then your motives are wrong. You are not trying to benefit others; you want to benefit yourself. You want our praise. You want our respect. You want us to scramble to you the next trouble arises for deliverance. That is not ‘agape’-love. That is not a love seeking to benefit others, that is a love seeking to get.
God gives you (and me) spiritual gifts in order to benefit others. Yet, selfishness drives us to use those gifts only when we will receive something in return, be it praise, respect, or approval. A love seeking to get does not match God’s standard of love. It falls short of his expectations. It means, you fall short of what God expects from you.
That is why God gives us these words. The point of 1 Corinthians 13 is not to see how good your love is. Rather, it reveals one love that is good. One Love that Motivates All Service. A love not seeking to get, but rather a love seeking to give.
[Jesus] is patient… His anger does not flare up every single time we grow arrogant. He has repeatedly taught us to love others just as he loved us and we still fail each day. Instead of punishment, [Jesus] is kind… He demonstrates mercy, treating us not as we deserve. [Jesus] does not envy worldly praise and glory, as we might. [Jesus] does not boast about the power he has as God. [Jesus] is not too proud to die a criminal’s death. Too proud to be held guilty for our arrogance. Too proud to be rejected. [Jesus] is not self-seeking. He uses his blood to purge pride from our spiritual record. [Jesus] keeps no record of wrongs. If he did, who could stand? (Psalm 130:3). Rather, [Jesus] rejoices with the truth: ‘Forgiven!’
Jesus does not come to make you great in the eyes of the world, he comes to make you great in the eyes of God. That is what truly matters. When all on earth passes away, when life is over and eternity begins, the only words that truly matter are the words God will say to you: ‘Come!’ One Love Motivates All Service. A love seeking to give.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. Love puts faith and hope into proper use. Love for God leads to an increased faith, an increased reliance on him. Love for God’s Word increases eternal hope. Love for God leads to a self-giving love for others.
So, look at verses 4-7 again. This time, do not listen with a mental checklist of “dos” and “don’ts.” Instead, remember that these words describe the love Jesus poured out for you. That means, this is not list of demands for you to obey and earn something. This describes the hearts God put in us. This describe our new hearts of love.
Love is patient, love is kind… It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. You may have that sister who argues all the time. Just being with her gives you fits— and you do not always think nice thoughts. You may even go out of your way avoiding to help her. Sound familiar? How often have we argued with God’s commands, but Jesus never avoided us? He came from heaven to earth to us. That self-giving love only motivates us to be self-giving. So, you overlook her faults— not that you pretend hurt never happened— rather, you do not keep a record of wrongs. You are kind and compassionate, forgiving, just as in Christ God forgave you (Ephesians 4:32).
Love does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud… That means you are never too proud pulling weeds in the flower beds. Never too proud picking up scraps of paper or pushing leaves out the door. Never too proud washing a dirty dish or straightening up sloppy appearances. No one may ever see you serve, praise you, hand you an award, and pat your back. Still you serve, seeking nothing in return. You imitate Jesus’ love that gave his all—so that he might receive you in return.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Mourn with those who mourn. Encourage those who need encouraging. Pray for those who need prayers. One Love Motivates All Service. A love seeking to give.
One engine powers so many luxuries on the cruise ship, Triumph. No engine and you have no thrust to move. No refrigeration. No pools and waterslides. No glass elevator. No mini-golf. No air conditioning. No bathrooms. One crucial part is so necessary for every pleasure to be enjoyed.
One crucial part is so necessary for us to benefit from each other’s spiritual gifts—and that part is love. This is not a love which fits our terms or wants. This is a love first shown to us. A selfless Savior gave his life for us. A selfless Savior gave his forgiveness to us. A selfless Savior gave gifts to us. Gifts not to advance ourselves. Gifts not to prop up and elevate our status. Rather, gifts to give. Gifts to give so that others may be ever more intimately connected to the body of Christ and to each other.
What gifts do you have? How might you use those gifts? Set your sights on Jesus, the one key component to use those gifts for good. One Love Motivates All Service. A love not seeking to get, but A love seeking to give.
This is what division does. Thirty-four days of a government partially shutdown. Now, let’s be clear about one thing: we are not discussing politics this morning. We are not debating who we think is ‘right’ and who is ‘wrong.’ For just a moment, ponder what you see. One political party proposes a budget-bill only to have it rejected. The other political party proposes a budget-bill only to have it ignored. Each body of government seems to only function among itself and not with its counterparts. That division has an effect. About 800,000 employees still wait for a paycheck; some have gone one month without pay. That means, rent and mortgages go unpaid. That means, spending is watched at grocery stores. That means, trips in the car are limited. An increasing amount of Transportation Security agents refuse to work. So that means longer security lines in which to stand. That means longer wait times for flights. That means some agents work longer hours and spend less time with family. Division stirs up anger. Division tarnishes respect. Division damages relationships. Division benefits no one.
So, if division helps nothing, why does it still occur? Boil it down. Form one concrete answer. Why does this happen?
God knows the reason. That is why he gives us these words today. God does not want our differences morphing into painful division. He reminds us: One Body has Many Parts. God makes each member uniquely different, So that each member is uniquely united.
The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts… Different-sized parts like hands and arms, feet and legs. Different-shaped parts like bones. Different-textured parts like internal organs. Different-functioning parts like eyes and ears, nose, and mouth. [A]nd though all its parts are many, they form one body. You do not hold one single part— like a heart— and say: “This is a body.” No! We identify the heart as a part of a larger object.
So, just like many individual parts come together and form the body, So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body— whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free— and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Each one of us here have one thing in common. One thing— regardless of your age. Regardless if you are a man or woman. Regardless of your job or how much you make. Regardless of your personality or interests or hobbies. Regardless of where you were born, where you grew up, and where you live now. You (and I) might be completely, absolutely different in every possible way, but we still have one thing in common: We are here today because of Jesus.
[W]e were all baptized by one Spirit into one body… You are just one person, but at your baptism, God adopted you. God took you [individually] by choice into his family. And God adopted the person next to you at her baptism. God used baptism to adopt the guy sitting in front of you. The person across the aisle is adopted through baptism. One-by-one God joins each single believer into one spiritual family that has one common belief: Only Jesus saves. [T]he body is not made up of one part but of many.
Forget this and you start sounding like a foot. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. Do you catch the problem? It’s jealousy! After all, hands get more attention than feet. You lotion hands, you wash them often, people see your hands, I shake your hands. Honestly, I forget that you have feet; it’s the farthest thought from my mind! And how often I pout because no one sees my contributions. “I keep clean the church. I water plants and shovel the walks. I reached out to that fellow member who has not worshipped in over a year. No one saw me do that. No one thanks me for this.” Jealousy demands credit for a God-given gift. It is absolutely selfish to fold your arms, pout, and gripe: “Well, since I receive no praise, then I will stop helping this body.” Division hurts others. Division limits you. Division benefits no one.
And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. Eyes and ears constantly work. When we are awake, we are always seeing and hearing. Both get credit… but maybe the ear thinks sight is a more important function than hearing. Really, the ear demands to perform in a way it cannot! That, too, is jealousy. Jealousy ranks gifts. Jealousy says: “It is unfair that I have to listen and not preach.” Jealousy says: “I want to lead, not follow.” Jealousy says: “I want to be known as outgoing and personable, not quiet.” Jealousy refuses to use the unique gifts God gave you.
Catch that? Look at verse 18. God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. Who gave you the gifts you have? Who opens opportunities for you to use those gifts? Who equips you for service? God. So what does jealousy say about God’s arrangement? “God, you do not let me be praised. God, you do not let me be seen. God, you got it all wrong.” You tell God how to function.
God would have every right and reason to amputate us from his body, but he does not. Instead, he amputates Jesus. Yes, Jesus, the Son of God is made lower than the angels. His twelve fishermen constantly squabble about the most important rank in their group. Still, it is Jesus who has our jealousy written all over him. It is Jesus who is cut off from the body of God. It is Jesus who dies to join you (and me) into the body of Christ.
Jesus strips away jealousy by dying for you and then living again to tell you about it. You are a part— yes, just one part of a larger body— but you are a special part because Jesus spent his life to join you to him.
God makes each member uniquely different for a reason; God makes you different for a reason. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? If you all had the same flamboyant gifts, who would benefit? Picture it: an eyeball laying on the ground. This is a body? It can see me talking, but cannot decipher my words. It can see dinner, but cannot smell or eat. It can see friends, but it cannot wave and say ‘Hi!’ An eyeball does a great job of seeing, but it fails miserably to do anything else! The body has other needs, so it needs other parts. Each part uses its unique ability in its role at the appropriate time. One Body has Many Parts. God makes each member uniquely different, So that each member is uniquely united.
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” What would happen if the eye got its way? You have no hands. How would you pick things up? If you tripped, you could never catch yourself. You would get hurt. You need hands. Each of you have an ability that is valuable. Maybe not noticed. Maybe never credited. But still valuable.
Think about that. You have value. You do not have the right to throw a pity-party, neglect your gifts, and say, “Well, they don’t need me… I’m too old… I’ve put in my time serving… I’m too busy… I don’t want to…” If you are a hand, then serve as a hand would. If you enjoy people, then encourage like a people-person would— because others may not be people-persons. Or, if you are a not-so-noticed-foot, then serve as a not-so-noticed-foot. If you enjoy completing tasks, then keep clean your worship space and help clear sidewalks. No one may notice your contribution, but it is noticed when it is missing. If you are a powerful eye, then serve as a powerful eye. You may have knowledge of Bible stories. Use that knowledge to teach. You may have that strong faith. Then use that faith to focus others on Jesus.
God does not distribute gifts so that you compare yourself to others. God makes you unique so that you can serve unique needs. Your uniqueness might feel unnecessary. Friendliness? Really? Well, what an awesome feeling to be greeted by a warm face! Supporting, not leading? You do not need to all be Pastors; Pastors need helpers too. Helpers who have those relationships in the community, relationships that help remove barriers. Helpers who have building knowledge, who can design and decorate, who can use their body for work. Feel too elderly to contribute? Physically, maybe; spiritually, never! Experience is a treasure trove of wisdom! And you, dear Christian, may have the wisdom to approach the youth, identify temptation, and connect Jesus to life-situations. One Body has Many Parts so that each member is uniquely united.
That is the reason you are different from others. Differences actually unite us! Think back to the beginning (of our message). Our government has separate bodies that each have a unique set of responsibilities. When all work together, the economy runs strong, employment rises, and people receive physical needs. People are brought together. Division stirs up anger. Division tarnishes respect. Division damages relationships. Division benefits no one.
If one part suffers, every part suffers with it… Ever stub a toe? Such a little part of the body makes the entire body stop and floods the mind with pain. When a fellow believer suffers, the entire body of believers pays attention. Again, each part in its own way. A fellow believer loses a spouse. You hurt too. Some of you pray, others encourage, still others offer affectionate hugs. A fellow Christian stays away from worship. You hurt because you know faith can be lost; unbelief results in hell. So, friends encourage. Parents speak up. Believers pray. Your different roles actually bring us closer together.
[Y]ou are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. Faith in Jesus as Savior makes you part of the body of believers. Even though you stand in one big group, God makes each member uniquely different. You are the only one with the life experience you had. You each have different priorities. You each have different abilities. You each are unique, but still in the one body of Christ. That uniqueness is put to work So that each member is uniquely united.
Focus on the one Savior who joins us all together and see how God uses you (and me) to only strengthen bonds. To encourage others to remain strong in Jesus. To strengthen bonds of friendships here. One Body has Many Parts. God makes each member uniquely different, So that each member is uniquely united.