I heard a story about a family that had lost their father in a fatal accident. Life was hard on the wife and her two small sons but they managed to get by. As the oldest boy grew into a teenager, his friends were spending their Saturdays having fun, but he was stuck doing chores. Finally, he’d had enough. So, he marched into the kitchen and handed his mother a piece of paper. On it he had written the following list:
Mowing the grass: $5.00
Cleaning my room: $2.00
Babysitting my brother: $2.00
Taking out the garbage: $1.00
Getting a good report card: $3.00 Raking the yard: $2.00
Total owed: $15.00
His mother read the list, then turned it over and wrote something on the back. It seems her son believes he is owed something. Perhaps what she wrote would put everything into perspective. Now, I’m going to pause the story and get back to it later.
In our passage today, the children of Israel feel like they are owed something. In Exodus 16, it says the “…whole congregation of the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron.” It seems they believe it would’ve been better to of died in Egypt than of starvation in the wilderness. So God has a message for them.
It seems the Israelites had forgotten that God brought them out of slavery.
He shouldn’t have to remind them of the plagues that crippled Egypt.
He shouldn’t have to remind them of how He parted the Red Sea for their escape.
He shouldn’t have to remind them of how He feed them in the wilderness.
So God reminds them in verse 4, “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself.” What He did for His children showed His commitment to them. Now it was time for a commitment from them…to Him.
And if they would…He promises in verses 5: “…if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine.”
God saved them from slavery and is offering them all a new life. But there’s a catch. They must choose to commit to God. It’s their choice. That’s why the ‘IF’ in verse 5. “…‘IF’ you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people…”
“IF” is one of the biggest words in the Bible. We’re told in Hebrews, “…if you hear His voice, do not harden your heart.” The Lord said in Luke, “If you had the faith of a mustard seed…” And of course, “If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray…” (2 Chr 7:14) Now let me tell you a secret about the usage of “IF” in the Bible. Jesus always used “IF” with regards to us but He never used it with God!
So God is saying, if you accept my offer, then I will treasure you and lift you above all others. But He requires a “verbal commitment”. Haven’t they commit to followed Moses out of Egypt? Haven’t they spent nearly 50 days in the desert depending upon God for their food and water. Didn’t they walked thru the Red Sea? Didn’t they follow a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night to get to the mountain? Doesn’t that show their commitment?
Apparently not. You see, God doesn’t want a ‘casual relationship’. He wants a ‘lifetime commitment’. And a ‘lifetime commitment’ called for a verbal acceptance or a ‘vow’. Sort of like an “I Do” or a profession of faith…a verbal commitment.
But be careful what you say. The Bible says, “When you make a vow to the LORD your God, you shall not delay to pay it, for it would be sin in you, and the LORD your God will surely require it of you…” (Deuteronomy 23:21)
A ‘vow’ is far more than a promise. People break promises but when you make a ‘vow’ to God, He expects you to keep it. And God is asking the Israelites for their commitment at the foot of Mt. Sinai. He asks for our commitment at the foot of the cross! Galatians 2:20 says it best, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.”
But living the Christian life is hard. At times, we seem to be a “Yo-Yo Christian.” Up one day and down the next. But for a consistent walk, the Bible says, “Therefore as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him…” You can’t live the life of Christ…you can’t follow His footsteps…without Jesus living IN you first…“so walk in Him”…not in yourself! Christianity isn’t me trying to live like Jesus. Christianity is Jesus living in me…through the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ is living His life…His way…through me and my commitment to God.
Now do you recall the teenage boy that gave his mother a bill for all the chores? And she took the paper, turned it over and wrote something on the back. Well, here’s what she wrote:
For the 9 months I carried you: No Charge
For the nights I sat up with you: No Charge
For calming your fears: No Charge
For wiping away your tears: No Charge For all my prayers: No Charge
Total cost of my love: No Charge
When her son finished reading what she had written, tears filled his eyes. He picked up the pen and across his claim of charges, he wrote “PAID IN FULL.” There are many today who think that God owes them. That because they claim to be a Christian, that He owes them a carefree life…an easy walk…a better life than before. And when something goes wrong, they demand payment…restitution.
Oh how we’ve forgotten Calvary. The stripes He bore for us. The blood He shed in our place. Because of the cross, because of His vow to us, our sinful debt has been “Paid In Full.” Because of His commitment to us…God can demand our commitment to Him!
In the 1969, NASA had an astronaut to walk on the moon. Now, 50 years later, NASA has a new mission. They want to put people on Mars…but that will take a while. First, NASA intends to have people living on the moon. Then they’ll send spaceships to Mars to set up a place to live. Now I know this sounds all “Star Wars”, but my point is this: NASA has a mission and they’ll do whatever is necessary to accomplish that mission.
And that brings us to our story this morning. A story about 4 men who were on a mission. You see, their friend was paralyzed and they were convinced that Jesus could heal him. Let us stand as we read from God’s Word in Mark 2:1-12.
We’ve been talking the last few weeks about the great adventure that God has for us. About how God is preparing us and equipping us to do a mighty things in His name. Ephesians 2:10 says “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared in advance for us to do.” But what’s this grand adventure, this mighty thing that He has for us to do? It’s exactly what these 4 men did. It’s bringing someone to Jesus.
It was a priority for them, a sense of urgency that they take their friend to see Jesus. They don’t want to wait. They didn’t won’t to be put off. Perhaps, they were afraid that if they waited, they might miss Him. After all, Jesus had just returned to town, so they rush to find Him. It’s important that their friend see Jesus. Because they know…deep down they really know that if their paralyzed friend can be touched by Jesus, he can be healed. He can be whole again. So they arrive at the house where Jesus is staying…but they can’t get in!
The crowd is to large. Apparently, others have the same thought. They can’t get near the house. They can’t get close to the door. They can’t even look in the windows because of the people. I’m sure there were some who turned around and went home. But not these 4 men. They were on a mission and their friend was worth the struggle! So they begin to talk…to come up with a new plan to get into the house…to see Jesus.
Someone must have asked, “How are we going to get in? The doors and windows are packed.” And somebody must have said, “Well, there’s nobody on the roof. I wonder if we could tear it off and let him down in front of Jesus?” And after some thought, after some debate about such a bold move and a destructive tactic, they agreed…because their friend was worth the risk.
Now you have to realize this is a bold move on their part. They’re going to destroy the roof of someone’s home. They’re going to disrupt Jesus’ message to some very important people. But they don’t care. They don’t care if they ruin the roof. They don’t care if they upset the VIP’s. All they care about is that their friend is hurting and Jesus can heal him. Nothing else matters.
So, they get up on the roof. And they tear away at the tiles and the branches and plaster and you can see the crowd as the debris begins to rain down on them. They struggle to get out of the way. And then there on the floor in front of Jesus is enough space for a sick man on a pallet. The room is quiet. The crowd is silent.
Sunlight streams down from the hole and the room is filled with dust. Then they begin to lower their friend down into the room. And there’s Jesus. Standing. Watching quietly until the man lies on ground in front of Him. And He then looks up at 4 hopeful faces looking down thru the hole. And He sees their faith…He sees their faith!
This paralytic man was brought to Jesus to be healed. He wasn’t invited to the meeting, he was
brought! Do you know that of the 40 people that Jesus healed, 34 were either brought or He was
taken to them? Only 6 times did they have to find their own way. Think about that, is it better
to invite someone to church or bring them? It’s been said that “a church that’s waiting for the
lost to visit them is like the law waiting for the criminals to visit the police station.”
Everyday we talk to people who seem to be okay. They smile, they laugh, they’re pleasant but so many aren’t okay. They’re broken and they can’t fix their problems. It seems that something is missing or perhaps “Someone” is missing. They’re hurt, they’re confused and they can’t find anyone to fix their lives.
But you’ve found Him! You see, at some point in your life, you realized that you couldn’t fix yourself…you couldn’t save yourself. So there was an exchange of lives. You surrendered your life to God in exchange for the life of Jesus. The Bible says, “For by grace you have been saved, through faith.”
But living the Christian life is hard…we struggle and many fail in their mission. But if we’ll lean on God’s Word and follow Colossians 2:6, “As you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.” Then we’ll make it. You can’t live the life of Jesus without Jesus living in you… “so walk in Him.” Christianity isn’t me trying to live “LIKE” Jesus, as sort of a ‘thank you’ for saving me. Christianity is Jesus living IN me through the Holy Spirit and living His life through me.
Galatians 2:20 says it best, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who lives, but Christ who lives in me.” It’s like the 1978 movie, “The Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” I spiritually died upon the cross and Jesus came to live within me. But Jesus will not fight with you over control. As long as your flesh wants to be in charge, He’ll let you. And that’s how you “grieve the spirit.”
God calls us to surrender ourselves…to give Him control. God will live the Christian life…through us…IF we’ll let Him. Remember, our strength…comes…from our obedience…to God.
These men understood faith and obedience in bringing their paralyzed friend to Christ. They didn’t invite him, they brought him. If you want to see change in a person’s life then bring them to Jesus. Bring them to church…to Bible Study.
Beloved, my point is this:
And you’ve got what your friends, neighbors, and loved ones are looking for. The lost souls around you are on a mission to find Hope, Joy, Love, Peace and you know where to find it. Can you bring them to God?
In 1972, NASA launched a space probe named Pioneer 10 on a bold new adventure…unlike anything they’d ever done before. The probe’s mission was to travel 365 million miles to Jupiter. Then study the planet and its 2 moons, and send the data back to earth. Sounds easy but the furthest any satellite had ever gone was to Mars, which was only 33 million miles away.
Well, Pioneer 10 accomplished its mission when a year later it reached Jupiter. But Jupiter’s gravity ‘sling-shotted’ the probe at a higher rate of speed towards Saturn. And 400 million miles and 3 years later, Pioneer 10 past Saturn on the way out of our solar system.
NASA finally lost contact with Pioneer 10 in 2003, 31 years later when it was about 7.5 billion miles from earth. Boy, that must have been some powerful radio…perhaps the most powerful ever made. But according to NASA, the signals came from an 8-watt transmitter, which is about as powerful as a night light. Can you imagine accomplishing so much… with so little!
Well, compared to God…we are that little. Now in our small world, we may think we’re hot stuff…but compared to God, we’re really not all that impressive. And yet God still wants to work with us. But how can He do great and mighty things…with me…with you? Let see what He says as we stand and read from God’s word in Isaiah 41:9-10.
Many people don’t do anything for God because they don’t think they’re good enough or important enough or know enough for God to even notice them. That’s what Moses thought when God told him he was going to go see the Pharaoh and set His people free. Moses replied: “O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” (Exodus 4:10)
But God replied: “Who makes a persons mouth? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, the LORD? Now go! I will be with you as you speak, and I will instruct you in what to say.” (Exodus 4:11-12)
Isn’t that what we just read…“I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” And because God promises to hold our hand, that’s how come Jesus could chose men like Peter, James and John to be His first apostles. Now, they weren’t the best qualified, so Jesus was going to have to do some hand holding. Because they weren’t Bible scholars. They’re not seminary trained preachers, nor polished speakers. They’re just simple, everyday, hard working fishermen. And yet, when Jesus got done with them, they shocked the religious leaders.
The Bible says, “Now when they (the Sanhedrin) saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13) So, can God use simple people like me and you? He can, if we’re willing to spend time with Him and take His hand.
Our heavenly Father promises to help us. To prepare us and equip us for the adventure of serving Him. Now how does He do that? Well a couple of ways come to mind. The Bible says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” (II Timothy 3:16-17)
So the Bible is the main tool as He equips us to be of service.You see, the Bible teaches us the right way to live…to think…to treat others…and how to serve Him. And the Bible does that by teaching us “the Mind of God”. That’s what the Bible is – “the Mind of God” – in written form. When you read and obey the Bible, you’re learning God’s wisdom. All the answers you’ll ever need about life… are right here in this book. Alex Trebek, the host of Jeopardy, was once asked, “How many of the answers do you know?” And he replied: “All of them, because they’re right in front of me.”
When you read the Bible, you have all the answers right there in front of you. The more you know of God’s Word, the better off you’ll be. But…there’s more. By just reading God’s words…the Scriptures will change you. We read in Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any two-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow, it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” When you read the Bible, the words of God will begin to work on you. They will change you. They will mold you…into His image.
If you want God to use you, work with you, and change you…then READ THE BOOK! Now another way God equips us is through others in the church. You see, you have the preacher, Deacons, and teachers who can share words of wisdom with you but you also have others who are just as wise. The Bible says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17)
You need to pay attention to those who can equip you for your ministry. If you lack Bible knowledge, then find those who know more than you and listen. If you’re looking for something to do, then find someone who does something that interests you and spend time with them. You see, the purpose of Church is to help equip you in your service to God.
But equipping us is only part of the story. Getting us ready is no good if we don’t use our training. Do you remember that Jesus told Peter, James and John that He’d make them “fishers of men”? How would He do that? Well, it seems that for 3 years all they did was hang around Jesus. Everywhere Jesus went, they went and look how they turned out. Are you taking Jesus everywhere with you? It’s really simple…but we tend to make it hard…when it really isn’t.
You see, when NASA started sending astronauts into space, they wanted them to keep logs or journals. But they learned that a ball-point pen wouldn’t work in 0 gravity. So NASA spent 10 years and $12 billion developing a pen that would write in outer space..
It was American ingenuity at its finest. Now, the Russians didn’t have as much money for development, so they came up with a simpler solution… they used a pencil. The point is this, you can over think being a servant for God. It’s not that hard. It’s not rocket science. It’s just a matter of letting God use you. But in order for God to use you, you must first belong to Him.
Remember, what the religious leaders said was the reason for the boldness and courage of Peter and John? The Bible says, “…and they realized that they had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13) It’s simple, it’s about Jesus. Have you met Him? Can others tell that you have been with Jesus? Can they see the difference the Savior is making in your life?
On April 11, 1970, the Apollo 13 spacecraft embarked on an adventure to land on the moon. The 3 astronauts would call the command and service modules home for the journey while the lunar module would take 2 of them to walk upon the moon. But 56 hours into the mission, Astronaut Jack Swigert, uttered the famous words: “Houston, we’ve had a problem”.
That problem was an explosion that destroyed one oxygen tank and damaged the other. This meant they would not be able to use the command module to return to earth. So it was suggested they use the lunar module to return home. But that created a whole new problem. The lunar module had enough oxygen for 2 men for 2 days…not 3 men for a 4 days. Basically, the filters for changing carbon monoxide into oxygen weren’t big enough. So soon the air would become poisoned and they’d all die.
So NASA went back to the basics and the engineers worked round the clock to find a solution. And pretty soon they came up with a contraption made of duct tape, cardboard, plastic bags and hoses from their space suits. The crew followed their instructions and made it home safe.
The crew was in a hostile and unforgiving atmosphere and they only survived because they’d been trained in the basics and because they asked for the help. Now, that brings me to our text this morning. Acts 2 tells us all about the beginning of Christ’s church and how they were preparing for an adventure. Let’s stand as we read from God’s Word in Acts 2:36-42.
Can you imagine baptizing 3000 people? Can you imagine the excitement as these new Christians began the adventure of a lifetime. Unfortunately, after a short journey into the faith, just like Apollo 13, they “had a problem”. Within the first 3 years, they faced persecution and cruelty:
The Apostle James was executed.
Peter was jailed.
Philip was stoned to death.
And many believers were arrested, beaten & sometimes killed for their faith.
Now such persecution would have destroyed most beginning churches…but not this one. Instead it began to grow! Paul wrote: “The gospel which has come to you as indeed in the whole world is bearing fruit and increasing as it also does among you since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth.” (Colossians 1:6) Even their enemies said, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here too.” (Acts 17:6)
So how did the church grow in such a hostile time? It’s because they were trained in the basics and the basics made them strong. The key is in v 42, “…they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” These were the basic steps that gave the very first church the strength not only to endure but to grow in the face of adversity. I wonder if we have those 4 building blocks here at JVBC? Let’s see.
First, “they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching.” What was the ‘apostles teaching’? It’s the Bible. Basically the New Testament because that’s the collection of the writings and experiences of the Apostles. The teaching of God’s Word was their focus.
Here’s an example. A problem arose in the church because some of the widows weren’t getting a their distribution of food. And after some complaining, the Bible says, “the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, ‘It would not be right for us (the Apostles) to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables.’” (Acts 6:2)
The Apostles weren’t dismissing the widows as unimportant, they were just stating that their focus was to teach God’s Word. So a new group of men was formed called Deacons to take care of the widows. God insists that believers know His Scriptures. The Bible says, “For the Word of God is alive and active.” (Hebrews 4:12) The Bible shows us God’s will, teaches us about Jesus and helps us to live a life that pleases God.
So, is God’s Word a priority in this church? I say it is. That’s why we teach it in Sunday School, have Wednesday Bible Study, Sunday Night lessons on “The Bible says…”, upcoming Bible Drills for our children, and preach strictly from God’s Word.
Next was “Fellowship”. If a church doesn’t have fellowship it’s not a church. It’s just a group of people meeting in a building. Fellowship is at the heart of what makes a church…a church. In true fellowship, the believers try to meet the needs of others. But there will be times when we all fall short. And when that happens, when someone drops the ball…when someone fails to step up…then you do it. Have the attitude, “if no one will step up – I will! I’ll be God’s man/woman.”
Then came the “Breaking of Bread”. In some churches today the Lord’s Supper isn’t very important. Some don’t take communion during the service because it interferes with the “flow of worship”. Others don’t do it because they’re afraid non-Christians will participate. That’s not what the first church did. Acts 20:7 says “On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them…” Now what was the reason they were gathered together? To break bread. The Lord’s Supper was the center of their worship and do you know why? Because it why…they’re a church.
The Apostles were powerful teachers…but the Apostles didn’t die for them. The church was their source of strength…but the church didn’t die for them. If it weren’t for this table and what it reminded them of…the early church would have failed. But the cup and the bread were constant reminders of who DID die for them. We must NEVER forget, that Jesus paid the ultimate price for our sins and that’s what this table is all about.
And lastly, prayer. Do you remember what the astronauts did after the explosion? Did they try to fix the problem themselves? No, they called NASA. They needed a power from outside of their little world to reach in and help them. Now that’s prayer. Prayer is when we realize that we need a power from outside to reach in and help us. Are we a church that prays?
My point is this: God has called each of us to a great adventure. But it’s an adventure that we need to be trained for. And v 42 offers the basic training: “…they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” I believe God set up His church just the way He wanted it with these 4 basic steps. But do you know what the key is: “…they devoted themselves…” Would you call yourself devoted?
Do you know where you’re going? After the worship service, a new pastor was shaking hands at the door when a lady said, “Pastor, I hope you didn’t take it personal when my husband walked out during your sermon.” The young preacher replied, “Well, I’ll admit, I wondered where he was going. I hope he wasn’t ill.” And quickly the woman replied, “No, he’s not sick. You see, my husband’s been sleep walking ever since he was a boy.”
All through people want to know where they’re going. Albert Einstein was once traveling by train and when the conductor asked him for his ticket, he couldn’t find it. Finally, the conductor said, “Well, don’t worry about it. Everybody knows who you are and I’m sure you bought ticket, Dr. Einstein.” And he moved on. But in a moment, he noticed Einstein on his hands and knees searching for his ticket. The conductor walked back and said, “Dr. Einstein, don’t worry about it. I know who you are.” Then Einstein looked up and said, “I, also know who I am. What I don’t know…is where I’m going.” And that’s our question this morning. “Do you know WHERE you are going?”
You see, it’s in our nature to have a purpose or a direction. Usually, people set goals of where they want to go in life. When we’re kids, the goal is to grow up. As adults, our goal is to get a job, get married, and have kids. And when we get old, the goal is to retire, travel and see our grandkids. But often, as we travel down the road of life, what we think will make us happy or fulfill our goal, really doesn’t. I wonder if that’s what Peter, James and John found out? Let’s stand as we read what Dr. Luke wrote in Luke 5:1-8.
Fishermen – Peter, James and John
Peter knew Jesus was different…but how?
“Master” (verse 5)
Peter, James, and John got all they ever wanted.
They walked away…why?
Now, it’s been said, “There are two great days in a person’s life: The day we are born and the day we discover why.” Peter, James, and John had finally discovered why they were born. Discovered what they were created to do. The Bible says that “God has puteternity into man’s heart” (Ecclesiastes 3:11) In other words, God has made us for more than this. He made us to have fellowship with HIM! Have you ever wandered, “Is there more to life than this?”
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said: “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness..” (Matthew 6:33) Basically, He’s saying: “Before you look for anything in life, find God first.” Now why is that so important?
Because if you seek God first and make Him the head of your life, then you’ll be able to handle all the hardships that life throws at you. Beloved, if you don’t build your life around God, then you’ll build it around something else. Jesus said, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth…but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven…” (Matthew 6:19-20)
So you see, you have a choice! Just like Peter, James, and John had a choice. Stay and enjoy the catch which will soon be gone…or follow Christ into eternity.
Now, Peter, James and John were good ole’ Jewish boys. They built their lives around fishing. I’m sure that every Sabbath Day they were in the temple. I’m sure they put their hour or so in church…but their lives weren’t built around God. They worked at being fishermen…until Jesus stepped into the boat. From that day on, they might have fished a little bit…because they spent all of their time…following Jesus. From that day on…they worked at being followers of Jesus.
So I ask you again, “You know where you’re going?” If you’re not sure…then let me ask, “Who are you following?” Peter, James and John followed their job…their goals and their dreams of the “big catch”…until Jesus stepped into the boat. Who’s riding in your boat?
Knowin’ Where You’re Goin’ Do you know where you’re Read More
Begin your journey to peace. The Bible says, “If you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9) Would you like to accept Jesus Christ as your Savior? It begins with a simple prayer:
“Dear God, I know I’m a sinner, and I ask for your forgiveness. I believe Jesus Christ is Your Son. I believe that He died for my sin and that you raised Him to life. I want to trust Him as my Savior and follow Him as Lord, from this day forward. Guide my life and help me to do your will. I pray this in the name of Jesus. Amen.”