02/25/2018 = John 1:1-14, John 10:25-38 = Questions of Faith: “What Is Biblical ‘Author’-ity?”

Click HERE to listen to this message (my mic was dead the first few minutes, and there’s an un-microphoned time of feedback i the middle; I think it’s better than last week, tho….)

Mark Wheeler

John 1:1-5, 10-14; 10:31-38

“What Is Biblical ‘Author’-ity?”

2nd Sunday in Lent, 02/25/2018

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Through the Written Word,

          And the spoken word,

          May we know Your Living Word,

          Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

 

Today is the Second Sunday of the Season we call Lent – a season of recognizing our own sin-nature, reflecting on what God has already done for us through Jesus Christ, rendering our faith and our lives more deeply into God’s power and presence.

 

We are journeying through this season with a sermon series wherein we ask some of the important questions of faith – and see where Scripture might lead us in our search for reasonable answers.

Last week we explored the question of God’s existence – and while we probably cannot prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is a God, we came to realize that even most atheists believe in some kind of transcendent Being.

So, as believers in this Almighty God’s existence, today we ask if the Bible is God’s Word. I worded this question by asking,What is Biblical ‘Author’-ity?Is there a “divine author, and does this Author’s voice have any power?

 

What do you think? Does this Book have anything to say to today’s world? Is it worth our time to read it … again? Or, isn’t it just an ancient collection of old fanciful fairy tales and ego maniacal power trips?

This week I watched a lecturer describe how her teenaged students think of the Bible – “It’s a ‘foreign object’ that belongs to somebody else – the church, their grandparents. It’s important. It’s God’s Word, even, but some adult needs to explain it to them because they just can’t read it themselves.” Does anyone here relate to that? Right? We all do, a little….  Here’s another way teenagers describe the Bible: “the Bible is a holy book. It is really big and heavy; it has special paper; and an old smell.” Can anyone relate to that?

Is it relevant for today’s life?Well, it’s completely true, so … yeah. But it’s big, heavy, special, and old-smelling, so I can’t read it without help.” I think that’s just a polite way to say, “it is so boring”!!

 

Or, maybe here’s what “more mature” people would argue: Is the Bible the Word of God?

Well, I dunno, I find a lot of places where it offends me, so if it is, I don’t like the God it represents.”

These same people would affirm the value of Cultural diversitythat’s a thing today’s world loves to promote, and properly so. Right?

Is any one culture any better, or more valid, than other cultures? NoAll cultures have good things and bad things….

Well, let’s imagine for a minute that maybe the Bible is God’s Word … – if it is, then every culture, every person in every culture, should be offended – because we all have good and bad things in us.

Right? The Bible says things that I shouldn’t do, or that I should do, that I do not like!   But that does not make it not God’s Word – if anything, that makes it God’s Word for sure!

 

Paul tells us, in I Corinthians 2:14, that unless, until, the Holy Spirit catches our heart we will “not accept the things of the Spirit of God”. Because the Bible is a spiritual book, it will always take more than mere words to convince a skeptic of its Divine Authorship and authority. But that does not mean that our beliefs and our articulation of those beliefs are without value. God has, indeed, provided ways that we can know these words are His Word!

 

First, we need to see that the biblical books have internal qualities that demonstrate their divine authority. Last week we saw that “the heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19), so does the written Word we call the Scriptures.

Here’s what I mean: it’s not just that the Bible says things, it actually does things!

  • The Bible convicts our hearts (Hebrews 4)
  • The Bible encourages our faith (Isaiah 40:31)
  • The Bible comforts our souls (Deuteronomy 31:8-9)
  • The Bible brings wisdom to our minds (Proverbs)

In short, the written Word of God is alive, providing understanding to life’s biggest dilemmas and a coherent and compelling worldview that explains reality like no other piece of literature ever written!

Does anyone have a story of a time when you were facing something beyond your own ability to handle it, and that day something in your Bible reading gave you the exact reference point from which to move forward?

 

Another internal argument for the God-Authorship of the Bible is contained in the unity and harmony of the Scriptures. This big, special, old-smelling book has writings in it from

  • at least 40 different human hands,
  • spanning the centuries of nearly 1,500 years, and
  • crossing several language and culture and national and religious barriers

– and they all line-up to tell one coherent, compelling story of the redemption of all things through Christ Jesus, of who God is and who we are and what God does for His creation!

Such harmony cannot be the work of human effort! This is compelling evidence of Divine Authorship!

In short, we might know that the Bible is God’s Word because within it we hear the voice of God.

 

Listen to these opening words from the Gospel According to John – and then we’ll skip forward about 10 chapters and read some of Jesus’ own words. John 1:1-5, 10-14; John 10:25-38….—-

John 1: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

John 1: 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 10: 25 Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.30 I and the Father are one.”

31 Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, 32 but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?”

33 “We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”

34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are “gods”’? 35 If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be set aside 36 what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? 37 Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. 38 But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.”

 

A second way to see the Bible as God’s Word involves the history surrounding each book. Michael Kruger, author of a book called The Question of Canon, says, “These books come from God’s authenticated messengers, prophets and Apostles who were authorized to speak for [God]. The Scriptures contain not just the words of human beings but the words of human beings who were called to be God’s mouthpieces.”

Of course we do not know the human author of every book in the Bible, but we have solid historical evidence that situates each book in time periods and circumstances where we can know God was actively working among His people to reveal His Word!

And, not to be ignored is the fact that these books have been through more scrutiny than any other text in human history, and time and time again they prove themselves to be reliable and worthy of our trust.

 

And here’s one final thought on this subject of the Author-ity of the Bible as God’s Word: God’s Spirit-filled people, for generation after generation, have recognized these books to be from God!

I agree that this is not empirical proof of anything. Ultimately, we are talking about statements of faith here. This is Holy Spirit-filled conviction of something that cannot be proven. In the same way that we cannot prove that George Washington ever lived or led the Revolutionary War against England 240+ years ago. We believe it’s true, because we have been told it’s true by trustworthy sources. That’s what Paul says to young Timothy in II Timothy 3:14, “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it” (namely, his mother and grandmother).

The Church through the ages tells us the roots of these Words. And that testimony deserves its due weight.

 

I contend that these three reasons provide a great basis for believing that the Bible is, in fact, the Word of God, and therefore trustworthy as an authoritative rule for faith and life: Internal evidence, the historical evidence, and the testimony of the mother-Church. And even weightier than these are the words of Jesus Himself, who unequivocally proclaimed God’s Author-ity in the Bible when He says, John 10:35, “these Scriptures cannot be set aside!”

 

Michael Kruger affirms that if we believe the Bible we will believe in Jesus, but also, that if we believe in Jesus, we will believe in His Bible!

 

Ultimately, this is a question of faith – but it is a faith that nothing has yet been able to defeat. And when we adhere to the Word of God, when we believe in its real truth, in spite of everything that tries to be to the contrary, we give glory to God.

 

As we move toward the cross of Good Friday, never forget that we also move toward that empty tomb of Resurrection Sunday. Amen.

 

Resources:

Keller, Timothy; What Is Good Preaching? Lecture 2; Reformed Theological Seminary; Charlotte, NC; 2017.

 

Kruger, Michael J.; “Is the Bible the Word of God?”; TableTalk; August 2017; Pp. 8-9.

 

Lang Hearlson, Christy; Tools of Bible Interpretation: starting with teenagers’ interpretation.

 

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church Thursday Bible Study Group; Spokane, WA; 02/22/2018.

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02/18/2018 = Genesis 1:1 = Real Questions: “Is God for Realsies?”

Clicking HERE will bring you to an audio version for absolute realsies (however, we had trouble with the recording equipment, at the 9:50 mark we are missing 3 or 4 minutes, at the 13:06 mark we lose a little of the text and I added a whole story that is mostly in the recording but not in the text, at the 15:26 mark the closing lines got skippy – so we’re missing about 5 minutes – but it should be followable any way – sorry for the difficulty….).

Mark Wheeler

Genesis 1:1; Ecclesiastes 3:9-14

1st Sunday in Lent, 02/18/2018

“Is God for Realsies?”

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Through the Written Word,

          And the spoken word,

          May we know Your Living Word,

          Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

 

Today is the First Sunday of the Season we call Lent – a season of recognizing our own sin-nature, reflecting on what God has already done for us through Jesus Christ, rendering our faith and our lives more deeply into God’s power and presence.

 

We are entering into this season with a sermon series wherein we ask some of the important questions of faith – and see where Scripture might lead us in our search for reasonable answers.

And we are starting with what may be the most basic question – something about whether there is a God at all. Some of you know that a couple weeks ago I accepted an invitation to join a group of men who meet once-a-month to talk about a book they have read in the previous month – a book group. This group is made up of mostly retired university professors, and doctors and lawyers – I dove into the academic deep-end with this group. And the book we read was written by a local author who would be present at my first meeting with this group – Shawn Vestal, Spokesman-Review journalist and novelist. The book is a coming-of-age story about Fundamentalist Mormons in southern Idaho, and we learned that the author had grown up as a mainline Mormon, but left the religion in his teens.

One of our group members asked him how much of himself was in the main character, and then he asked whether he believed in any kind of “transcendent Being” (ie, God). His answer was both revealing and hopeful.I don’t know,” he said. “But I’m open, and I expect that maybe there is….”

Is God for Realsies? What do you think? How would you answer?

Philosophers have asked it like this: “Why is there something there, and not nothing?” Last Thursday, at Bible study I asked why these class members believe in God, and one of the classmates answered that she believes because she exists!If there’s no God, where did we come from?That’s the question these philosophers were asking.

The opposite way of saying this is that “nothing comes from nothing”. If we start with “nothing”, NO THING will ever grow from it. Nothing is a concept our brains can’t fully comprehendtotal void, complete emptiness, utter vacuositywe can’t imagine.

We’ve all heard René Descartes’ “I think, therefore I am”. Permit me to draw a logical next step: “Because I am, I cannot think of nothing.” And that leads to the next logical conclusion: “Because I think, therefore, it is impossible that God does not exist”.

All of the Big Bang Theory stuff included, Nothing can create only NOTHING! Something was there ahead of creation!

 

And so we read the opening words of the Hebrew Bible, what we know of as the Old Testament.

Genesis 1:1, while not meant to be a science text book, none-the-less, speaks a truth no one, in my estimation, has even come close to adequately denying. Listen to these words: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

Sinclair Ferguson, a Scot (so he’s fun to listen to) and a scholar, says, “I have recently tried a simple but unnerving experiment, directing my mind to think its way into the assumption that there is no God, and then to explore the implications. I strongly discourage performing this mind experiment. It leads inexorably to a dark place, a mental abyss where nothing in life makes sense, indeed, where there is no possibility of ultimate ‘sense’. Here, all that we think of as good, true, rational, intelligible, and beautiful has no substructure to give these concepts coherence. Thus, the nature of everything I am and experience becomes radically deconstructed and disconnected from my consciousness of them. … ‘Meaning’ itself in any genuinely transcendent sense is itself a meaningless concept.”

 

How many times have we heard people say things like, “There’s no atheists in a foxhole”? Right? And foxholes may simply be a metaphor for any trouble we find ourselves in. “Dear God,” one might say, “I know you’re not real, but please protect my daughter; please bring my son to good health; please find a job for my grandchild.”

That is what makes sense.

There’s a famous quote by a Russian atheist who, when asked if he is an atheist answered, “Yes.  But it is more than that. You see, I hate Him!” Far from being able to deny the existence of God, he confessed both God’s existence and his own antagonism toward Him.

 

In the Old Testament there’s this one book called Ecclesiastes (that’s actually the Latin transliteration of the Greek translation of the Old Testament Hebrew word which means something like “Gatherer” – the Greek word for “church” is “ecclesia” but it is usually understood as preacher/teacher). Ecclesiastes 3 is the chapter that says there is a time for everything under heaven (a time to be born, a time to diea time for war, a time for peace). Right after that, the “preacher” says, Ecclesiastes 3:9-14 ….—-

What do workers gain from their toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time.  He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.  12 I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. 13 That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.  14 I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.

 

Genesis 1 goes on to tell us that we are created in God’s image, however goofed up we have made that image. The “preacher” of Ecclesiastes declares that God has put “eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom all that God has done from beginning to end.”

Nearly 1,000 years after Ecclesiastes was written by King Solomon, the Apostle Paul wrote a letter to the Christian community in Rome where he, in Romans 4, is talking about how even Abraham, the father of the Jewish people, was saved by faith before he was “Jewish”. Jim Edwards, retired Bible professor at Whitworth University says about this passage, “The hardest thing in life is to believe God above [life’s] circumstances. Abraham questioned God (Gen. 15:2). He pleaded with God (Gen. 18:16). His wife laughed at God (Gen. 18:11). One commandment—to sacrifice young Isaac—struck so hard that he was left reeling in confusion. But [Abraham] obeyed the command, repeating to himself “God will provide” as he trudged up the mountain (Gen. 22). His obedience, however, was not the obedience of despondency. How could he be passive before the God of the impossible? … The question of faith was not then and is not now an easy one.”

 

Is God real? Does He really exist? If so, does He care what we think or believe or do?

 

The great old Easter hymn says it well:

I serve a risen Savior,        He’s in the world today.

I know that He is living,     whatever others say.

I see His hand of mercy,     I hear His voice of cheer.

And just the time I need Him, He’s always near.

          He Lives. He lives.     Christ Jesus lives today.

          He walks with me,      and He talks with me, along life’s narrow way.

          He lives. He lives,       salvation to impart.

You ask me how I know He lives.         He lives within my heart!

 

Ultimately, this is a question of faith – but it is a faith that nothing has yet been able to defeat. And when we adhere to the promises of God, when we believe in His reality, in spite of everything that tries to be to the contrary, we give glory to God.

 

Why does the Bible not even ask this question of God’s existence? Because it declares in its opening sentence, “In the beginning God created….”

Is He for realsies?  We declare YES! And together, as we struggle through the hassles of life, we decide to trust Him with our very lives.

As we move toward the cross of Good Friday, never forget that we also move toward that empty tomb of Resurrection Sunday. Amen.

 

Resources:

Ackley, Alfred Henry; “He Lives”; 1933.

 

Edwards, James R.; New International Biblical Commentary: Romans; Hendrickson Pub.; Peabody, MA; 1992; Pp. 127-128.

 

Ferguson, Sinclair; “Is There a God?”; TableTalk; August 2017; Pp. 6-7.

 

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church Thursday Bible Study Group; Spokane, WA; 02/15/2018.

 

02/11/2018 = I Timothy 6:12-16 = “… the Beginning of Knowledge”

Click HERE, lest you FEAR what you might HEAR.

Mark Wheeler

I Timothy 6:12-16; Exodus 33-34

“… the Beginning of Knowledge”

02/11/2018

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

God our Father,
Creator of all things,
true source of light and wisdom,
origin of all that is:

Thank You for calling us to faith,
for planting Your Word in our hearts,
and for delivering us from our sin.

Thank You for calling us to Your service,
for giving us the ability to read Your Word
and share this good news with others. Through Christ, our Savior, Amen.

 

We have invested every Sunday since the turn of the calendar looking into what it means to have a Fear of Godwhy we might fear a loving God, what it means to be afraid, and how fearing the Lord means not having to be afraid of anything else!

So, let me stop right here for a minute and just ask: Has there been an “aha” moment for you in these last five weeks? Did you think, I’ve never heard that before? What stands out for you in this series?

 

We started off reading Proverbs 1:7 which tells us, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge…Next, we read Psalm 112:1 which tells us, “Blessed are those who fear the Lord, those who find great delight in His Commandments.” Then we read from I John 4 which gives us the flip side of the Fear-the-Lord coin: “God is love.” Then we read two stories that come straight from Jesus’ own life and ministry: about Jesus calming the storm on the sea, and how that made the disciples even more afraid(!), and then from Luke’s version of the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus tells us to not worry about our daily sustenance followed by this quote: “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the Kingdom”(!).

 

Augustus Montague Toplady was an 18th Century Anglican pastor, and he was a major Calvinist opponent of John Wesley. But what he’s best remembered for is a hymn he wrote. And this is a favorite hymn for a lot of people: “Rock of Ages” – look in your hymnbooks, #227, and listen for words or images of fear:

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,             Let me hide myself in thee

Let the water and the blood          from Thy wounded side which flowed,

be of sin the double cure;              Save from wrath and make me pure.

Not the labor of my hands, can fulfill Thy Law’s demands;

Could my zeal no respite know,    Could my tears forever flow,

All for sin could not atone             Thou must save, and Thou alone

There are at least three clear biblical references in these opening two verses; can you see them?

  • Exodus 33-34, the story of Moses asking to see more of God’s glory and God telling him to hide in the cleft of the rock as God’s glory passed by… (the burning bush, plagues in Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, water from a rock, the manna from heaven, the pillar of fire and the pillar of smoke, the Ten Commandments – and he asked to see moreWhat God tells Moses is: “If you were to see My glory, Moses, you would immediately die!”…
    • Why are we to fear God? – because to see God’s glory would mean certain death!
    • The glory of God in its fullest expression is the totality of everything that God is – what Paul calls the “weight of glory” (II Corinthians 4:17S. Lewis wrote a whole book on this theme).
    • The fullness of God’s glory is His infinity
    • The fullness of God’s glory is His eternity … – God, and God alone, simply is! In Bible study a few weeks ago one of our members asked who created God – so with a few questions and a few minutes of discussion we discovered that there are two options: 1) somebody bigger than God created God (an impossibility), or 2) No one created GodGod is simply God!
  • Jesus’ crucifixion after the Roman soldier stabbed His side to make sure He has died …
  • The whole book of Romans, and maybe any of Paul’s letters which tell us that we are saved by grace through faith

 

Listen to these words from the Apostle Paul to his spiritual son Timothy, and listen for how this applies today as well. I Timothy 6:12-16 …. —-

12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you 14 to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which God will bring about in his own time—God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.   (NIV)

 

Paul is telling Timothy, and if we’re willing to listen, he is telling us, that we fear God for the same reasons we praise GodBecause He is God!

And we know God the same way that Moses knew God! We know God as He reveals His glory to us, on our level, in ways that will not overwhelm us or destroy us. He will not give us more of Himself than we can handle! John Calvin says that “God has stooped to our level to make Himself known to us”(in the incarnation). He stooped to the request of Moses by allowing Moses see His back side! God stooped in the Old Testament as He spoke through the prophets. Ultimately, in Scripture, God stooped when He “dwelt among us” in the person of the Word which was with God and which was God!

 

But, as we see God stooping to our level as a baby in a manger, we coo and ahh, and we too quickly forget that He is still God!

 

In a few minutes we will participate in the process of ordaining and installing five of our Baptized members into positions of Ecclesiastic leadership. God stoops in our presence when He invites us into His service in His Church for His Kingdom-purposes in His world!

Before we do that, I want to invite us to turn to #227 in our hymnbooks, and in unison, and nearly a cappella sing this great hymn. But do not just sing the words, or hear others sing the words, listen to what those words say and pray them from your soul.

 

Because Christians need not fear God out of fear of eternal punishmentChrist has taken that away! We need not fear God out of fear that He will renege on His promises or reject us because we’re not good enough!

We fear God for His praise-worthy characteristics: the radiance of God’s infinite, eternal, majestic glory would simply, by His majesty, stamp us out of existence! We fear God because we know that if we were to actually see Him in all His glory, we would be no more!

God is to be feared because of who He is in the fullness of His majestic being! And, Fear of the Lord is just … the Beginning of Knowledge of God!

 

Let’s sing #227 together.

 

 

Resources:

Oliphant, K. Scott; “The God Whom We Are to Fear”; TableTalk; January 2018; Pp. 14-17.

 

Toplady, Augustus Montague; Rock of Ages; 1776.

02/04/2018 = Luke 12:29-34 = “What Are We Worried About?”

If you CLICK HERE you will be able to LISTEN to this message.

Mark Wheeler

Luke 12:29-34

“What Are We Worried About?”

02/04/2018

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

God our Father,
Creator of all things,
true source of light and wisdom,
origin of all that is:

Thank You for calling us to faith,
for planting Your Word in our hearts,
and for delivering us from our sin.

Thank You for calling us to Your service,
for giving us the ability to read Your Word
and share this good news with others. Through Christ, our Savior, Amen.

 

Has anyone here ever had one of those sleepless nights when after what seemed like hours you finally just gave up and went to the TV Room and started watching late night television? When I do I like to find the “oldies” stations and watch TV from the ’50s and ’60s and ’70s.

The downside to late night oldies TV is that they assume their viewers are people in their late 50s-90s! That means their commercials are for people … my age….

And what these commercials advertise for is FEAR and WORRY.
If you can sleep through the night now, gentlemen, it won’t be long before that prostate of yours will become so enlarged you’ll be getting up 4 time a night to use the bath room!

You’re too fat? You need to try these medicines. (And then watch for the possible side effects, which usually include death).

Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” You really can’t live without one of those “alarms”.

Right? The list just goes on and on.

Fear and worry is a multimillion dollar industry! It fuels the internet. It dominates political campaigns. Without something to cause us to fear or worry, what would our Facebook posts look like?

 

I read an article by the managing editor of an organization whose main purpose is to provide the church with Gospel-centered and Christ-focused materials called The Gospel Coalition. He writes, “On paper, we should have fewer fears than any generation before us. We’re surrounded by security systems, advanced medicine, organic food, and endless information on a glowing rectangle in our pockets.

          “Yet we are deeply, miserably afraid. Far from loosening the choke hold of fear, the material blessings of our age seem only to have tightened it.” (Matt Smethurst)

 

A month ago we read Proverbs 1:7 which tells us, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge…Next, we read Psalm 112:1 which tells us, “Blessed are those who fear the Lord, those who find great delight in His Commandments.” Then we read from I John 4 which gives us the flip side of the Fear-the-Lord coin: “God is love.” Last week we read the story in Mark’s Gospel about Jesus calming the storm on the sea, and how that made the disciples even more afraid!

 

Today we hear another story from Jesus’ life. Listen to these words from Luke and listen for how this applies today as well. Luke 12:29-34 …. —-

29 And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. 30 For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

32 Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.  33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.  34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.   (NIV)

 

This is Luke’s version of what Jesus says in Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6). What is Jesus saying here? “Don’t worry about your next meal” is really just the tip of the iceberg of what Jesus is really saying. And, of course, those of us that are well-fed have an easier time hearing these words than those living on the streets or in a tiny village in Kenya who honestly have no idea where their next bite might be coming from. But Jesus’ statement doesn’t change with the circumstances, the truth stays the truth regardless of the situations we find ourselves in.

Don’t worry about what you eat or drink” really is about worrying about anything, everything, that sustains. “The truth is,” Jesus continues, “Your Father knows what you need!

 

Not too many decades ago, when we asked people out on the town where they find truth their answer would likely have been something about science. Science teaches us the way this universe works. The “how” , if not the “why”, of life can be explained by science.

But today you know what the answer is? “Truth is found in yourself. Believe in yourself. Be true to yourself. Your truth is your truth, regardless of anyone else’s truth.”

 

I bring that up merely to point out that the “how” of science, and the relativism of today’s truth, deny that “the Father knows what you need.”

If we really “are the master of [our] fate and the captain of [our] soul”, as the poem says, then everything is riding on us! Do not mess up! That’s enough to make even Tom Brady worry!

 

Jesus tells us that the answer to this dilemma is simple: “Don’t be afraid, little flock, your Father has been pleased to give you the Kingdom!

 

The truth is that God can provide and that God does care!

Progressive” Protestantism teaches about a God who is loving, but not powerful. I would say they believe in a good God, but not a great God! He cares, but He can’t do anything to help! Some would say it like this: “He’s a nice buddy, an experienced life coach, even a world-class psychotherapist, but ultimately He’s just ‘the man upstairs’.” (Oprah Winfrey probably has more power than God in their perspective.)

Other religions offer the opposite. I’ve heard Islam described as a religion that believes that God is great, but not entirely good! He’s almighty, but not all-loving! He’s a God who can, but perhaps doesn’t care.

 

Neither of those is the God of the Bible, or the God whom Jesus reveals to us. In Scripture we encounter a living God who is both great and very good; sovereign and grace-filled.

If God were only good, kind, caring, but not great and almighty, I would go to bed frightened every night! I watch the news. I know what we are capable of. I have a son who lives halfway around the world – I would fear for his safety every day. I would worry for my daughters every night. How could I worship a God who, bless His heart, was trying His darn best and means well, but He’s just not able?

But what if He were only sovereign and not merciful, all-powerful but not loving? That would be worse!

 

What we have been learning these past several weeks is that fearing God is the answer to all our worries! Someone has said that “we fear man so much because we fear God so little”.

And it’s not that we fear God because He’s mean and nasty, but because He’s holy! John Flavel, an English Presbyterian Pastor from the 17th Century, once said, “Godly fear does not rise from a perception of God as hazardous, but glorious! C.S. LewisAslan tells Lucy that he’s “not safe, but he’s good.”

 

In today’s reading from Luke 12, Jesus urges His disciples not to be anxious, since their Father in heaven is both infinitely great and perfectly good. “Fear not, little flock, for it is Your Father’s good pleasure,” Jesus says, “to give you His Kingdom!

Did you hear it? Jesus names God as Shepherd, Father and King! This God of Scripture, and only this God, is the Shepherd who seeks us, the Father who adopts us, and the King who has all the authority and power and still loves us!

 

Psalm 23 tells us “the Lord is my shepherd”, and that truth is worth remembering. But Revelation 7 makes this truth even bigger when it says that this Lord is the Lamb of God who is sacrificed for us.

The One who crafted us in His image is the same One who pursued us, lived for us, died for us, rose for us, intercedes for us, and will return for us! All we need do is receive Him and believe in Him.

 

Fearing God means we never really need to fear anything in this world, we need not worry about tomorrow, because, the truth is, God has been faithful or our every yesterday and He will be faithful for our every tomorrow!

 

God is great, almighty; and God is good, loving and caring!

 

Living and gracious God,
through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ
You have brought us out to a grace-filled place
where we are called to live as those redeemed.
Empower us by Your Holy Spirit to keep Your commandments,
that we may show forth Your love
with gentle word and reverent deed
always, everywhere. Amen.

 

Resources:

Smethurst, Matt; “What Are We Afraid Of?”; TableTalk; January 2018; Pp. 6-9.