God-breathed 2: We are Called and Sent

I’ve been a fan of human space travel ever since I was little. I followed the Apollo series very intently when I was young and I can remember a time, during the Apollo 17 mission, when I looked up at the moon and thought to myself, “There are human beings on the moon right now.” And we are I believe living in kind of a renaissance of space travel right now because there are all kinds of new ventures happening. But what’s different about this time is that in the past all human space travel was done by government agencies like NASA in the United States or the Soviet space agency. Now we have private companies that are engaging in space travel they and making huge strides forward. So, one day I thought I would take a look and see what the mission and vision statements were for the three main private space companies. I wanted to know what’s driving them to do this because this is an expensive process. It takes a lot of money and these companies are putting their own money which is different from a government agency where they put your money into spaceflight.

So I went online here’s what I found out. The first company I checked out is Virgin Galactic which is owned by Richard Branson. Their mission statement is: “We are the world’s first commercial space line, and our purpose is to connect people across the globe to the love, wonder and awe created by space travel.” The second company I checked out is Blue Origin which is owned by Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon. Here is what Blue Origin is all about in terms of space travel: “Blue Origin was founded with a vision of millions of people living and working in space for the benefit of Earth. Blue Origin envisions a time when people can tap into the limitless resources of space and enable the movement of damaging industries to space to preserve Earth, humanity’s Blue Origin.” The third company I looked at is SpaceX. They have changed their vision and mission statement, but I don’t think that it’s quite as descriptive as their previous one was, so I went back to it. And it says that SpaceX’s mission is: “To revolutionize space travel with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets.”

This is all very interesting to me. If we had a little fun with these vision and mission statements, we could say this: All three of these companies recognize that there are problems here on earth, but all have different approaches regarding how space travel will help deal with those problems. Virgin Galactic is like, hey, you know what? We got a lot of problems here on Earth. Let’s go on a cruise, and it will be the ultimate cruise because we’ll go into space. And then Blue Origin is like, and please understand I’m having fun with this. I’m not denigrating what these companies are doing. I have a lot of respect for them. But Blue Origin is kind of like hey, you know what, let’s take all the garbage out of our house and throw it into our neighbour’s yard. Then hack into his Wi-Fi so we don’t have to pay for Disney+. And then SpaceX is like, we’ve got problems here so let’s pack our bags, get out of here and leave all of our problems behind.

And we human beings tend to use one or more of these approaches in our own lives. I know I’ve used all three at different times. The first approach is we’ve got problems, but let’s fill our life with pleasure so we don’t have to think about them. And the second one’s like, there are problems but let’s move them around and put them in somebody else’s area so we don’t have to deal with them anymore. And the third one is, let’s just get out of town because we want to escape from our problems. And none of these approaches work. If you fill your life with pleasure to try and forget about your problems when you’re done with the pleasure, you still have the problems and you still have you probably have a bill from the pleasure you engaged in. The second one doesn’t work because moving your problems around doesn’t actually deal with them. With the third approach, if you try to escape from your problems, you will likely find that your problems go with you. Wherever you are, that’s where your problems are. Jesus has a better approach. To find out more about Jesus’ approach to problems we are going to take a look at Matthew 9, starting with verse 35. If you have a Bible or Bible app nearby, I invite you to turn there now.

What we find as we take a look at this passage is that Jesus shares a two-part approach with us. The first part is for us, with God’s help, to address the things that are going on in our inner being. This is the point of the Sermon on the Mount, which we read a few days ago in our Bible reading plan. It starts with a list of blessings which are, in other words, saying blessed are you when you have faith in God, and yet you are feel totally inadequate, because God is with you. And, in the end, God is going to make you and all things right. Then Jesus goes on to say “You may have heard…l”, or “It was written that…” “…but I tell you that…” and what he does is amp up the standard. What Jesus is saying in this section of the Sermon on the Mount is ‘You may think that you can do the things of God, but God’s standard is absolute perfection and so don’t think that you can get close to God on your own merits.’ You need a Saviour because you and I are sinners. But the good news is that God has sent a Saviour, his name is Jesus, and in him, we do have a relationship with God.

Then Jesus goes on to that section where he talks about that speck of sawdust in our neighbour’s eye and the block of wood in our own. Like, don’t try and tell your neighbour about a speck of sawdust in their eye when you’ve got like a huge timber in your own. What is Jesus saying there? He’s basically saying, work on yourself with God’s help first. Now what he’s not saying is what people often interpreted this passage to say, “Hey, you can’t tell me I’m doing anything wrong. That’s judgment Bible says you should not judge.” That’s not what Jesus is saying. Love compels us to tell somebody we love when they’re doing something wrong. What Jesus is saying in that passage is don’t try to fix people, because that’s God’s job, not ours.

I’ve tried it and it doesn’t work. It’s very detrimental to relationships when you try to fix people.

To sum up, the whole point of the Sermon on the Mountain is this: Every time we face a problem, it’s an opportunity. It’s an opportunity for us to work on ourselves with God’s help. Whenever we encounter a problem, we can ask ourselves this question, “What does the way that I am responding to this problem tell me about myself?”

You and I cannot do anything to prevent problems from happening. The only thing that we can do anything about is the way that we respond to problems. Our responses tell us something about ourselves and if we have the courage to look at those responses, it can help us grow.

Does my response to a problem tell me that I am self-centred and selfish? Then we can ask Jesus to help us to become more selfless. Does my response tell me that I have an anger problem? Then we can ask Jesus to help us to address that anger and the fear that’s usually underneath it. Does my response tell me that I’m kind of hooked by some bad habit or maybe even an addiction? Then we can ask Jesus to help us to be and live in freedom, the freedom that he gives us through his forgiveness. Every problem we face is an opportunity for us to work on ourselves. So, we don’t flee from our problems. We don’t fill our lives with pleasure to try and ignore them. We don’t move our problems around or try to shift them off to someone else. We stay where we are, and we deal with our problems with God’s help.

That’s part one of Jesus’ approach to dealing with problems. Part two is to then intentionally be a conduit of God’s grace to the world. And these two things are connected because as Jesus works on our inner being, we are then better able to share His love with others. In fact, I don’t think you could share God’s love with others properly unless Jesus has been working on you first. The first thing we do when we intentionally are conduits of God’s grace to the world, is we see the world the way Jesus does. And our passage tells us how Jesus sees the world in Matthew 9:36: “When he [that is, Jesus] saw the crowds he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd.” That’s how Jesus sees the world, and he is inviting us to also see the world with compassion.

So we see the world with Jesus’ eyes, and then we serve the world with Jesus’ hands. You and I are the hands and feet of Jesus. This is God’s plan for the world.

With the eyes that Jesus gives us, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we can see the opportunities that God gives us to share his love with others, and then we step into those opportunities and serve in the way that he guides us, knowing he’s the one that’s doing all the work. He’s the One who is changing other people’s hearts and our own.

And then there is the third part of Jesus’ approach to dealing with problems and this part is really important. The third part is to rest in the power of Jesus. This is what Jesus meant in John 15 when he said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) We need to be resting in our connection with Jesus and letting his power, love, grace and mercy flow through us. That’s what accomplishes the things that God’s trying to do in the world.

And when we do these things—when we see with Jesus’ eyes, when we serve with Jesus’ hands, and when we rest in the power and love of Jesus Christ—then we are part of God’s mission for the whole world, which is the redemption and renewal of all things, including us. And what greater thing could there be for us to do with our one and only life that Jesus has given us in this world?

This, dear friend, is how God deals with problems. He doesn’t focus on pleasure, so he doesn’t have to think about them. He doesn’t try and move problems around, so he doesn’t have to deal with them. When his creation was broken, he didn’t just throw us in the trash can and go somewhere else and start a new creation. No, instead he dealt with the problem that existed. He entered into his broken creation and became one of us in order to save us and all things.

God came in the person of Jesus Christ who suffered and died on the cross to begin a new creation inside of the old and everyone who believes in Jesus Christ as their Savior is a new creation person.

As we get older it may seem when we look in the mirror, that we can actually see ourselves starting to decay, and there is some truth to that. But Jesus is renewing us on the inside, day by day, even during life in this world. And there will come a day when he’s going to reveal his new creation which will happen at the end of time. When Jesus returns the old creation will pass away and the new creation will be revealed. And that new person whom Jesus has brought to life within you right now, everyone will see then. That new person will be given our old body made new again, a resurrection body that will never grow old, never get sick and never die. And that’s when your inside and your outside are going to match. And we will get to live in God’s restored creation, the new heaven with Jesus forever.

That is where we’re headed.

God deals with the world’s problems with a compassionate, active, powerful love, transmitted through human hearts and hands to restore and heal all things.

What does this mean for this for us? Well, it means that we have a forced choice that we have to make: Are you and I going to be part of God’s plan for the world or are we going to keep trying to live our lives our own way? I hope and pray that we all choose the first alternative. And if we choose to be part of God’s plan for the world, then there are a couple of things that are really, really important. First, we need to remember is to engage with God’s active, powerful, compassionate love. That’s the most important thing. The love that God has for you and me and for the world is the most powerful change agent in all of creation.

So how do we engage with God’s love? How do we be conduits of God’s love? The first thing that we do is apply it to ourselves. And this means for many of us, including myself, that the voice that’s inside of our heads needs to change because often that voice is a condemning voice. And dear friend, God is not condemning. So where do you think that voice is coming from? It’s not coming from God.

What we need is to speak the gospel to ourselves, to speak God’s compassionate, active, powerful love to ourselves so we can immerse ourselves in it. And then we share that love with others. Again, this is a two-step process. And it starts with us applying it to ourselves because we share God’s love with others out of the overflow of the love that God is poured into us.

And one of the really great ways for us to apply God’s love to ourselves is by reading the Bible, to take note of those promises that God has made to us there and committing them to memory or somehow making them a part of our lives. That will help us to live in God’s good news. And living in God’s good news will help us to share it with others through our words, or by our actions or our attitude.

So the challenge that I’m leaving you with today is to fill yourself up with God’s compassionate act of powerful love. And then carry it to others in your everyday life. Imagine that you have a bucket that you walk around with each day and you disperse God’s love from that bucket. You have to have a full bucket to share God’s love with others. So whatever way it is that you get filled up with God’s love, please do that often and regularly so that you can naturally share His love with others. We are called by God and sent with his power to declare and demonstrate with our lives the coming of God’s kingdom. Amen.

(This message was shared at Walnut Grove Lutheran Church in Langley BC on January 15, 2023. To view or hear the podcast of this sermon, click here. For more information about our church, please go to wglc.org.)

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