“Abide” Friday, August 7, 2015
Pastor Paul Purdue’s Friday’s Rough Draft
We offer this draft to assist those with difficulty hearing.
On Sunday, we ask God to perfect this sermon in our hearing!
Last week I preached from Joshua 24 about our need to follow God today. Joshua knew that our indecision is a decision. If we say we will follow tomorrow or the next day or when the schedule clears, then we effectively say I am not ready to follow God today. Joshua preaches: “Now, choose this day whom you will serve … But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord. … Throw away the less-than-gods and incline your hearts to the Lord. Say an unqualified “yes” in your hearts to God!”
Without a decision we decide to not change. Without throwing a few idols out we vote to maintain our allegiance to less-than-gods. Without intentionality there is no spirituality. Without choosing we vacillate and do nothing. Indecision is a decision.
Believing “prayer matters” produces less change than 7 minutes of prayer. If we can’t commit to loving our neighbor then we offer less-than-love to them. If we are indecisive about doing good we allows bad to flourish. If we can’t decide to offer kindness we offer some flavor of unkindness. If we vacillate in our faith we live in unfaithfulness. We must decide today. Will we offer an unqualified yes to God?
Life is too short and precious not to be intentional about living. Paul warns “Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of every opportunity… Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do.” Ephesians 5:15-18. We will never discover the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, goodness, gentleness, self-control, forgiveness, graciousness, faith, hope and love that God wants for our lives until decide to offer our “unqualified yes” to God.
For the purposes of this sermon, I am going to assume that you have offered an unqualified yes to God Almighty. I am going to assume that you have deeply committed to follow Christ, that you all have taken your vows before God and each other. I renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of my sin! I accept the freedom and power God gives me to resist evil, injustice, and oppression. I confess Jesus Christ as my Savior, put my whole trust in His grace, and promise to serve Jesus as my Lord, in union with the Church which Christ has opened to all!
- Well, after saying an unqualified yes to God then what?
- How do we live making the most of every opportunity?
- How can we live spiritual, intentional, Godly and Christ-like lives?
- How can we live lives that cultivate love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, goodness, gentleness, self-control, forgiveness, graciousness, faith, hope and love? love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, goodness, gentleness, self-control, forgiveness, graciousness, faith, hope and love?
In John 15:4-6 & 9-11 Jesus teaches “ Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit. Apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. … As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.”Jesus is saying that you must be connected to the vine to stay alive spiritually. You must be deeply rooted in the things of God. I may go out and cut off the most beautiful flowers from a magnolia or rhododendron. I can bring it in and we can enjoy the flower for a few days but it will die. It will drop it flowers, the green leaves will turn brown and indeed the stem will become a twig… We must connect to God.
- Is God our source for living or are we rooted in shallower stuff?
- Do we abide in the True Vine that nourishes our souls with Living Water or swim in vapid pools?
Inside the first Tabernacle was a massive lampstand. It might have been the size of a floor lamp or maybe a small street light. The lamp had a center trunk base and seven branches. The menorah’s branches looked like Almond bark. At end of each branch an elaborated golden base held the ancient lamp. It was tipped with a golden almond flower opening up and cradling the lamp. The lampstand looked like a giant golden tree encircled in light. The branches shone light inside the Tabernacle. Archeologist find images of this “tree of life” all over Israel, on Jewish coins, carved into walls on people’s homes. It was the defining image of ancient Jewish faith-the light of God flowing out of the branches giving direction for life.
- What fills the fearful darkness of your life with light?
- What renews you?
- What shines a correction upon your path and speaks truth when you live lies?
- What soothes your weary soul?
- What filters the angry air infecting our society and recirculates faith, hope and love?
- What gives you rootedness when the winds of life howl?
- What grows new life, new hope, new love, new courage, and new strength in you?Abide in Christ. You cannot experience authentic living unless you abide in Christ. Christ is the vine, we are the branches. If we abide in Christ we will bear much fruit. If we abide in Christ our lives will yield love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, goodness, gentleness, self-control, forgiveness, graciousness and hope. Abide in God’s love. Apart from Christ we cannot achieve anything of spiritual significance. Indeed, if we are disconnected from Christ our interior lives will wither away and be cast off. Abide in Christ’s love, observe God’s commandments, and Christ’s joy will you, and your joy will become complete. (This is my reworking, connecting to Galatians 5 and contextualizing Jesus’ words)
Friends, how can we become godly without a connection to God?
How can we become spiritual without a rootedness in the spirit?
How can we become Christ-like apart from a deep link to Christ?
Up in the hills and hollers of my old Kentucky home there was a young man who had this old truck. His daddy gave it to him. He loved his truck. It was kind of rough and worn, but the young man poured his love into the truck. He rolled out the door panel dents. He cut out the rusty spots around the wheel wells and learned to shape Bondo Fiberglass Patch into the gaps. He sanded down the rough spots and made the crooked straight. He took “Old Blue” to Earl Schieb and for 199$ got the truck baptized a beautiful powder baby blue. He kept Amor All, Windex and a little whisk broom behind the seat.
Every Saturday he washed Old Blue unless it snowing. Once a month he waxed her. If he hauled something or ran through a muddy field he took her to the car wash and sprayed her down.One day as he was climbing up a hill Old Blue began to sputter and cough. He eased her over to the side of the road. He called a buddy and with a long rope. They tied Old Blue to a truck from another denomination pulled Old Blue to his garage.
He washed her. He scrubbed the hubs. He Armor -Alled her tires. He Turtle-Waxed her. He changed her floor mats. He thought maybe it was her engine. So he opened the hood and degreased the engine and polished the chrome… still nothing. He washed the undercarriage still nothing. He hauled the Old Blue off to Earl Scheib and re-baptized her with a new paint job. Still nothing. Old Blue would not start. She would not run. The problem was not the exterior- the problem was inside her engine.
That is a silly story, but a lot of us live a little like that. We don’t think much about our souls. We neglect the engine of our being. When our life is spurting we buy new clothes or a new boat, or a new book or a new game. We jog, diet, work harder, drink, eat, be merry, play, save, watch, get a new hobby, take a trip, medicate… but we do not lift the hood and look at the soul.
When did you last spend time in deep prayer about your living? When did you last consider your soul?
Jesus preached a parable kind of like this, that I have contextualized a tad. “Woe to you, Bible scholars and religious folks: hypocrites! For you clean the outside of your bowls and cups, but the inside are full of greed and self-indulgence. Phony! First wash the insides of the dishes, so that the outside may become clean. Woe to you, Bible scholars and preachers, phonies! You are like marble mausoleums, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside are full of bones, death, and filth. On the outside you look righteous, but your insides are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” Matthew 23:25
- When do you pause and consider your soul?
- When do you become still and listen to your heart, soul, that part of you made in the image of God?
Many of us spend our lives working on externals. We earn money for cars, clothes, houses, boats, travel, or just to accumulate a pile of money. Jesus says at the end of your days it will not matter what car sits in the driveway. Jesus warns that God will not measure your living by your 401K. In truth, neither will your children, your real friends, or your family. If only faith, hope and love make into heaven, why do we focus on externals so much?
More than just people living for the wrong things, Jesus warns about religious folks living for the right things but in the wrong way. Jesus warns that many religious folks major in religious minors. Jesus calls out the Bible Scholars who seem to know all the rules and regulations but are connected to God’s Holy Spirit. You can know a lot of Bible and be very zealous about your religious practice and not be connected to God. How can you know if you are connected to God? When we are connected to God our lives produce love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, goodness, gentleness, self-control, forgiveness, graciousness, faith, hope and love.
- How can we live a spiritual life apart from a spiritual connection and transformation?
- How can we become Christ-like without abiding in Christ?
- How can we become godly without spending time with God?
- How can we become spiritual without being open to the Spirit?
Now some folks believe that God will zap us into holiness. Some folks believe you can say a prayer and everything is okay. They think if you believe the right things and then you are okay. That may be religious wishful thinking because Jesus said “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 7:22) No, friends God does not want to just change our minds, but to change our daily life! God does not just want to change our exterior appearance; God wants to change our hearts. God wants us to abide. When we abide in the Spirit, Christ produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, goodness, gentleness, self-control, forgiveness, graciousness, faith, hope and love in us!
- So how does a change of heart come about?
- How do we connect to Christ?
- How do we become godly, holy, and Christ-like?
Mother Teresa said “Everything begins with prayer”
Friends we are altered by time at God’s altar. We become what we worship and praise. But more than that, the very presence of God comes to us in prayer.“God’s very spirit testifies with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:16)
In Luke 5:15-16, Jesus heals someone, who goes and tells everyone about Jesus. Jesus did not seek the fame and the crowds and yet the crowded overwhelming schedule comes. Luke writes “Yet the news about Jesus spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. (Luke 5:15-16 NIV)” Consider this, as Jesus’s schedule got busier, Jesus sought out time with God.
Spending time in worship and prayer may be the most important thing we can do to become Christ-like. Now prayer without action is worthless. James tells us that: “So you see, faith by itself is not enough. Unless faith produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. (James 2:17)” Prayer is essential to spiritual Christ-like living. Reading godly books is good. Listening to sermons online can be good. Searching the Scriptures is necessary. Doing the right things is essential… but prayer is the key.
- We must abide with Christ in order to become Christ-like!
- We become spiritual by connecting to the Spirit in prayer!
- Prayer allows love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, goodness, gentleness, self-control, forgiveness, graciousness, faith, hope and love to grow in us. Prayer helps us find the time. Prayer connects us to the spiritual life that gives life significance. Prayer is our vine, our source, our connection without prayer we will wither in spirit and die.
I want to challenge you to spend another seven minutes connecting with God each day in prayer. You may already have a Bible Study add seven minutes to your routine. You may listen to praise music or make it one your guitar, just add seven minutes in a solitary place with God. Seven minutes one minute for each branch of the lampstand.
Prayer allow God to transform us into people of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, goodness, gentleness, self-control, forgiveness, graciousness, faith, hope and love. Friends, we must become people of prayer. We must spend time in the lonely places with God in order to become godly!
- Prayer is the engine that changes our living.
- Prayer is the source, the connection, the vine that links us to the Holy Spirit.
- Prayer fuels spiritual change.
How do you do the 7 minute lonely place challenge?Turn everything off. Put your phones on airplane mode. I like to sit outside, but a room without media and people is fine. Take “no purse, no bag, no sandals, (no Bible, no prayer list, no agenda); and greet no one who comes along “. Nothing! Tap the start button on your timer. Silently say “Here I am Lord, empty me so that I might hear from you, forgive me so that I might follow you, empower me so that I might follow through, make me grateful” Seven silent minutes. Let seven minutes tick off. No paper, no media, just abiding in solitude with God: a daily retreat, a daily Sabbath, awake but resting until you hear the chimes. If you care about your soul enough to work at this discipline you will learn to pray. Prayer is mostly taking oneself into the presence of God! It is hard to be still for 7 minutes but the Psalmist promised “Be still and know that I am God”(46) Mother Teresa warns “Even God cannot put anything into what is already full.” Seven minutes in the wilderness! Once you have mastered 7 solitary minutes then move to 12 for the disciples.
Now you will need to add searching the scriptures, worship, praise and indeed application/Christ-like living but just 7 minutes in the lonely places with Jesus will begin to grow love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, goodness, gentleness, self-control, forgiveness, graciousness, faith, hope and love in you. Let us abide in Christ.Let us be renewed by prayer, solitude, wilderness and stretches of time focused only on the Spirit. Let wash away anything less than faith, hope or love. Let us often withdraw into solitary places with our Lord when our schedule grows crowded.Let us open ourselves to God making space for God.God longs for Christ’s joy and love to fill us, and for our joy to grow into completeness in Christ!
- Let us pray and we will find the time we need to live as children of God!
- Let us empty ourselves so that God can fill us.
- Let us give 7 another minutes to God each day.
- Let us focus on the inside of the cup.
- Let us drink from the Living Water and never thirst.
- Let us often withdraw into solitary places with our Lord.
- When our schedule presses upon us, let us retreat into renewing prayer.
- Let us empty ourselves so that God can fill us.
- Let us open ourselves to God making space for God.
- Let us pray and we will find the time we need to live as children of God!
God longs for Christ’s joy and love to fill us, and for our joy to grow into completeness in Christ! Amen!