I have been thinking about God, from my early days of my youth and he is just so awesome, so large, and sometimes so complicated. In Genesis, there is a line of scripture that references something that is so amazing:
Gen 3: 8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” He knew where they were of course, but God wanted them to answer.
This happens after Adam and Eve had eaten of the fruit from one of the 2 trees in the center of Garden of Eden – one tree was the Tree of Life, the other was the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil . The is an awful lot of contention of whether God was physically there or just in the Spirit – regardless, it indicates that there was a relationship between man and God, and that is more what I want to talk about. And that relationship or closeness was severed by an act of disobedience.
The time span of Adam and Eve to Jesus is approximately 4200 years – a long time in our eyes, but I guess to God not so much. A day is as 1000 years to God.
Matthew 1:17 17Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah.
I remember growing up in another faith – I am not here to judge that, I am just sharing from experience. During the church service, there were ornate gowns that the priest would wear, the organ music seemed more macabre than joyful to me at times. And as they proceeded to the to the front, they would swing censers emitting incense. We would stand up, sit down, and kneel when told. No one had a bible as I recall, it was very quiet except when we were to give an auditory response in the bulletin. In retrospect, it seemed so very cold and distant from how we worship and engage God today.
This reminded me more of the Old Testament, how people worshipped God, but they seemed like there was no connection – and that was probably me I guess.
I know that God did not need to create us. But I truly believed he wanted relationship with mankind. And I think of Adam and Eve having a relationship with God, and then it was cut off. We have had phenomenal teachings on how people had to approach God – to make sacrifices, priests needing to have ropes tied around them, I mean just look at the preparation of the priest who could only go in once a year. (Slide) There was definitely worship, and a relationship of sorts.
Have you ever wondered if God missed having a relationship with Adam and Eve and all their kids? I mean I know why, but do you think it was hard to not engage except for a few Old Testament events? Do you think He missed it, or wanted it. He must have, because Jesus, God in flesh, arrived on the scene.
And all throughout scripture we can see that Jesus was with people, He was eating with people, he went to weddings, he engaged people directly:
John 2:1-11 New International Version (NIV)
Jesus Changes Water Into Wine
2 On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”
4 “Woman,[a] why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”
5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
6 Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.[b]
7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.
8 Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”
They did so, 9 and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10 and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”
11 What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
So we have Jesus hanging out with people – having relationship with people. Eating, drinking, talking with folks.
How about the 5000?
Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand
10 When the apostles returned, they reported to Jesus what they had done. Then he took them with him and they withdrew by themselves to a town called Bethsaida, 11 but the crowds learned about it and followed him. He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing.
12 Late in the afternoon the Twelve came to him and said, “Send the crowd away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside and find food and lodging, because we are in a remote place here.”
13 He replied, “You give them something to eat.”
They answered, “We have only five loaves of bread and two fish—unless we go and buy food for all this crowd.” 14 (About five thousand men were there.)
But he said to his disciples, “Have them sit down in groups of about fifty each.” 15 The disciples did so, and everyone sat down. 16 Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke them. Then he gave them to the disciples to distribute to the people. 17 They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.
Earlier, I was dressed in a suit – trying to portray a more stoic image, perhaps less approachable. When I came back out, I am dressed more casually, maybe more approachable. Am I still me? I am. So when Jesus came to save the world, was he still the God of the Old testament? Absolutely – but how he presented himself, how he would now let people have access to Him, how he after the crucifixion sent the Holy Ghost – that was a radical change in how we able to approach God.
And for Christ Jesus to go through what he went through was such a tremendous act of love.
Can you imagine for a moment, if Jesus never came? If Christ did not do all that he did which enables us to have access to God Himself.
I feel, especially this morning, that God wants that relationship with us so much more than I realize. When we understand the depth of His love and what He did for us providing a path for Salvation, the filling of His Holy Spirit we have such a great opportunity. And the more that we foster that relationship with Jesus, is how not only we can change, but how we can help others in our life.
But I know that I can get in the way – Look, we all stumble and fall. The devil loves it when we separate ourselves or distance ourselves from God. That veil was torn from top to bottom!
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
But falling short should not separate us from our relationship with Jesus – Jesus is the Author and Finisher of our faith, amen? I used to constantly disqualify myself as not being good enough for Jesus, maybe you have as well. The truth is that we are a work in progress, and He is our perfecter. When we mess up, reaching out to Him is what He wants – not beating ourselves up as not worthy. He is worthy, and we are precious in His sight. We must remind ourselves of who we are to Him, as well as who He is to us. Get up, trust, and believe and He will make a way.
Fostering our relationship with Jesus will bring fruit with opportunity. We will be able to better listen and follow His voice. My sheep know my voice.
Recently, Diana ran into a couple that used to come to this church. She saw them from a distance once, then ran into them again and spent some time talking and found out they had no plans for Thanksgiving. We are having Thanksgiving with our kids today, and we went to my Dad’s on Thursday. So, since we were cooking anyways, we got them a turkey breast and fixins and delivered it before we went Monroe.
Now that could have been the end of the story, but it wasn’t. This past Thursday we found out that they had an issue with a contractor who is doing some work, but the quality is bad. We reviewed documents, I documented the poor workmanship with pictures, made a call, and told them not to sign anything. You see, the turkey was nice, but our presence and the ability to advocate for them is what I think God had planned all along. But if Diana had just walked on by and not heeded the Holy Spirit – none of it would have happened.
And while we are on this, may I admit something to you – there has been at least once when someone who has not been to church for some time and I said something like “Hi Stranger” or “Who are you?”. Lord – forgive me. When someone comes to church and has not been for a while, we don’t know what they were going through, factors that we have no insight to at all. They may even feel embarrassed coming in, and if we are going to love like Jesus, we should greet them with open arms – EXAMPLE “I love you” PAUSE “I am so glad to see you!”. They are working on their relationship with Jesus and we need not be a stumbling block on their journey.
What other ways did Jesus show us how to radically love people? I think the story of the Prodigal son is so amazing:
17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
Holidays are hard for many reasons, especially those that have lost loved ones. They are so dearly missed. Memories flood the mind, people missing from traditional gatherings, man it can be just plain hard. Holidays can also be hard with family as well. Not all families get along, not all family members agree on everything. Some may believe in God, and some may not. Perhaps there is a relationship in your life that is strained, or even non-existent. A relationship that is broken. To me, what the Prodigal parable tells me is that the lost can be found, that broken relationships can be mended when true repentance is reciprocated with love, goodness, forgiveness, graciousness, and acceptance. This is easier said then done, but with the help of Jesus, it can be done.
I am going through this right now with my son. I miss him so much. The reason doesn’t matter – we disagreed on something; I have to let what was said go. I need to step back and show that goodness, forgiveness, and just love him – and like the prodigal father, when I see him again, I will celebrate!
A critical component of Jesus radical love is right here, right now, in this very moment. It is you! We are the light in the world that can show people love, the same love that Jesus has for us He has for them. Our efforts should be to reach people, to love people, to seek the lost, to not be so judgmental. Our loving and accepting a people where they are at might just be the one thing that will make them believe that they too can be loved by God. Just like some of us have disqualified ourselves in the past, there are those doing that this very moment. By reaching out, by being supportive and loving to people, we can be ambassadors of the same radical love of Christ Jesus and provide the opportunity for them to have a relationship with Jesus.
Most people are not going to be able to know and love God if they feel less than, or not good enough. Can we be light in this world that will reach out and love them? Can we let them know that there is hope, that there is a savior? Can we let them know He is just waiting for them? Can we be bold enough to reach out to some of the same people that everyone else has rejected? Can we be that Radical Love that is Jesus Christ inside of us?
I pray Jesus, that you provide opportunities for all of us to radically love people. Jesus, guide our paths in this world so that we can engage people. Jesus, let us be a positive influence for someone who is struggling. Lord, prepare our hearts and our minds so that when we speak, we speak with the love that you have for them. Your Word declares:
9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
Lord, we agree with you and we wish none to perish – open those doors and opportunities and we pray that we are sensitive your Spirit and will be obedient when you speak.
The same love that Jesus has loved us with is the perfect example of how we can love others. We see how He went into the world and interacted all throughout scripture..
Another example of His love is the types of people that Jesus reached out to. He reached out to women, which was not traditional for the time. He reached out to the poor. He reached out to the unclean – which shocked many back then. He even reached out to those that oppressed him. Race was also not an issue for Jesus even though the Samaritans and the Jews did not like each other – no boundaries for the love of Jesus.
That may be the other thing that the Lord is telling me specifically – that I need to reach out in ways that may be uncomfortable. Maybe I need to try something new. Maybe I need to go to places I have not been. Maybe my pre-judgement or thoughts might be getting in the way. I will just have to try to discern where and how he wants me to reach out to people.
I am so grateful for Jesus. The Christmas season is upon us and there is no better time to share and love like Jesus did to the people around us.
Maybe you are here this morning and feel a little distant. Maybe you need some prayer for a relationship, maybe you need to be filled with the Holy Ghost so He can lead you on a path of Radically loving others If you need a healing, come and have hands laid on you and be anointed with oil. The altar is open and let’s pray together?
The altar is open.