Intro: Independence has always been a strong value for me. When I was in Grade Twelve, I could not wait for the day when I could leave home and finally be on my own. Years later, I left the family farm, even though I loved farming, because I wanted to gain my independence. Having been on my own for a few years, I now know that independence comes with its own problems. You are always accountable to someone, there’s a boss who reviews your work, or there is rent, a mortgage or other bills to pay. You are always responsible for something. You have to somehow carve a path through this world, and the weight of doing that rests on your shoulders. There have been times when I have wondered, “Can a person ever truly be free?”
Jesus came to show us that our degree of freedom depends on two things:…Who we trust and what we value. When it first arrived, the Covid-19 pandemic, in many ways, turned the entire world upside down. Now it seems like things are getting back to some kind of a normal, but it is a different kind of normal than what we had before. Some things still seem very strange. When someone is grieving the loss of a loved one, we cannot give each other hugs like we used to be able to do. We sometimes wear masks when we are around other people and then we cannot see what they are feeling because half their face is hidden from us.
But there is an opportunity for us in the midst of all this because strange and tumultuous times reveal what we truly trust in and what we really value. When the object of our trust looks like it is going to fail us, we begin to worry that we are not going to make it. When it looks like we might lose that person or thing which we value above all else, we begin to grieve a hopeless grief. And Jesus can help us to work through our feelings and trace them back to what we are thinking in our head and what we are loving in our heart and give us true thoughts to think and right things to love. Then, with the affections of our heart and the thoughts of our mind reorientated in the direction Jesus knows is best, something amazing happens! We will find that we truly are free. The storms of life can blow all around us and never throw us off course as we sail through life because Jesus has reset our trust and values to align with Him. And with Jesus as our guiding North Star in life, we will sail with Him into freedom forever.
To help us navigate towards freedom, we are going to continue our Back to Basics series where we look at the words of Jesus to rediscover the basics of life with Jesus. And the words of Jesus that we are looking at today are: “Seek first His Kingdom.”
- The Key to Change: Believing that God has our best interests at heart
This phrase is part of what is called the Sermon on the Mount, a sermon by Jesus which contains some of His most important teachings about life with God. Jesus starts off in chapter 5 by telling us that we are blessed even when our world is turned upside because God is with us, He is drawing us closer to Him through the challenges and tragedies we face, and God will work through our broken and God-reliant life to radiate His life-giving love into this broken and hurting world. Then Jesus talks about God’s perfect Law by which He measures all things. We tend to lower the bar of God’s Law and make it so low that we can jump over it. But Jesus is saying that the standard of God’s Law is perfection, and it is so high that we need a Savior to keep God’s Law for us. Jesus then encourages us to check our heart motivation for worship, whether we are worshiping God through our giving, our praying, or our religious observances like fasting. Basically, Jesus is saying, “Don’t worship to try to impress other humans. You worship for an audience of One, God, and no one else. Hide your outward displays of worship in secret to keep your ego from getting out of control. Otherwise you might start worshiping yourself instead of Me.”
And then, in Matthew, chapter 6, verse 19, Jesus starts talking about the importance of valuing treasure in heaven instead of valuing treasure on earth. What did He mean by that?
How many of you have seen the movie Apollo 13? For those of you who haven’t, three astronauts, James Lovell, Jack Swigert and Fred Haise, were headed towards the moon in April of 1970 when their Apollo spacecraft was crippled by an explosion. Immediately, the mission changed from landing on the moon to getting the 3 astronauts safely back to earth. While Lovell, Swigert and Haise used the Lunar Module as a lifeboat, scores of NASA engineers, scientists and technicians were working feverishly around the clock to work around dilemmas like rising levels of CO2 and how to power up the Command Module with the minimal power that was available. Those 3 astronauts did not desire or choose the situation they found themselves in, and they weren’t very happy about it either. But they had a choice. Their choice was to trust in and work with the team at Mission Control or not. And the key factor in making their decision was whether they believed Mission Control had their best interests at heart or not.
Dear friends, we are the astronauts on Apollo 13. We live in a crippled and hurting world that is hurtling through towards an unknown destiny. And the problems of this world are beyond our human abilities to solve them. But we have a choice. The choice we have is whether or not to trust in and work with God and His team of angels in heaven or not. And the key factor in making our decision will be whether we believe God has our best interests at heart or not. And we tend to measure the degree to which God has our best interests at heart, by how things are going in our little crippled spaceship. And Jesus is saying, “Don’t do that.”
- Jesus is the way to measure God’s favor for Us
You see, the way to measure how much favor God has for us is to look at Jesus. Jesus is God the Son who came to live in our crippled spaceship as one of us so He could save us. Though living a broken life in that broken capsule was all that we had ever known, Jesus connected us with Mission Control and made us citizens of earth. Now we have a life that is much greater and grander than what is contained within the small, cramped quarters of life as we knew it before. Though perfection was the price of that connection, Jesus lived that perfect life for us. In a very real sense, He gave us His life, with all its rights, privileges, position and favour, and He took away our old life, with all its guilt, shame, insecurity and condemnation.
And then, to cement the deal and show us that He really does have our best interests at heart, Jesus willingly went to the cross to suffer and die for the sins of the whole world. With His resurrection from the dead on the third day that followed, Jesus announced that all of creation had been given an immense course correction. Created good and working perfectly until the explosion of sin that was ignited by Adam and Eve’s rebellion, this corrupted creation will now slingshot around the moon and head back to the home from whence it came. The future holds good things for us because of Jesus, for one day He will come back to Spaceship Earth to restore and renew all things. Death and evil will be driven away and the damage caused by sin will all be undone. Every wounded heart will be healed, all injustice will be made right, we will be raised from the dead, fully alive with our old dead bodies made new again, and we will live with Jesus in the new heaven and earth forever.
And here’s the thing. The more we trust in and work with God as our Mission Control as we hurtle through space in our broken spaceship, the more people and parts of that spaceship are going to be healed and restored forever by God. What is that worth to you?
3. What will we value?
There is a scene in the movie where the 3 astronauts have to leave the lunar module, which had been their home for several days, and move to the Command Module to begin their final descent to earth. The lunar module would soon be jettisoned and eventually burn up in the earth’s atmosphere. The astronauts move all the essential equipment from the Lunar Module to the Command Module. But then they take a last look around at the Lunar Module to see if there is some small memento that they want to take with them. Everything else got left behind.
It is the same thing with us. At some point, we are going to leave behind this broken, crippled shell and get ready for our final ascent into heaven. Imagine that you are in that situation. You take a last look around to see if there is anything that you can take with you, and you can’t. The only things that will be familiar to you after your splashdown in the new heaven and earth to come, are the things that were course-corrected by Jesus, as He worked in and around you to set things on a new path where they flew with God and landed in His redeemed and renewed creation.
So who is going to be your Mission Control? Is it going to be Jesus? Or are you going to try to land your crippled spacecraft all by yourself? That is the trust issue.
And then what you are flying for? Do you want to squeeze the most out of each moment in your broken-down, beat-up, old, tin can in space that will burn up the moment it gets close to the home God intended for it to have? Or do you want to use your time and energy in space to connect more and more people with Mission Control, so they can trust in and work with the God who has their best interests at heart and wants to give them a soft, safe landing in the forever home He has prepared for them? That is the value issue.
Conclusion: Dear friends, the life that we have in this world is very precious. In the short time that we are here, eternal destinies will be determined as people encounter Jesus and His offer of life with Him forever. My challenge to you today is based on Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:33, when He said in reference to our heavenly Father, But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.(Mt. 6:33). So what is Jesus saying here? First, Jesus is saying forget about yourself because He has got you covered. He is holding you safely in the palm of His hand and there is nothing that can ever take you away from Him. And second, lift your eyes to focus on Jesus. Let His description of the new identity He has given you be the defining characteristics of your life. Let His unconditional, infinite love be the fuel that fills your hungry heart. Let His vision for the restoration and renewal of all things be the passion that drives you forward in life. And the joy, love and peace that will fill your life as you focus your heart on Jesus will make you a natural at sharing Jesus and His life-giving love with others.
It’s all about trusting in and working with Jesus as our Mission Control. And with Him as our Lord and Saviour, the future is brighter for us and others than we could ever ask or imagine. That’s what true freedom looks like. And it all happens when we seek first His Kingdom. Amen.
What are your takeaways from this message?