Click Here to listen to the sermon 12-09-02 Fully Committed
(Video at the end of the sermon is embedded at bottom of post)
Epistle Lesson: James 1:17-27
Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures. You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness. Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act—they will be blessed in their doing. If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
Gospel Lesson: Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles. ) So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” He said to them, “Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written, “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.’ You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.”
Then he called the crowd again and said to them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.”
For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
On August 23rd premiered a new TV Show hosted by Jeff Foxworthy called the Bible Challenge. It is a game show that is going to be testing the knowledge of the scriptures from 18 teams who will be trying to win money for whatever organization they desire. So why you may ask am I telling you this? Well, as I watched the show, one of the games they played was they had pulled some quotes from different places, and they asked the contestants if this was from the Bible or not? I thought the concept was quite compelling and so I thought we may try it today. Let’s see, tell me, is this quote from scripture or not, “’All Things are lawful,’ but not all things are beneficial” (1 Corinthians 10:23)
(Pause for answer)
Alright…..that was true. It comes from 1 Corinthians 10:23. Let’s try another one. “To thine ownself be true.”
In truth, this saying originates in the Shakespearean tragedy Hamlet. Polonius, the older counselor of Prince Hamlet’s uncle, King Claudius, is in the midst of dispensing advice to his son Laertes (who was about to leave Denmark and return to France) when he speaks forth the famous line: “This above all things: to thine own self be true” (Hamlet, 3.1.81). Among his platitudes, he also says, “Neither a borrower nor a lender be” (3.1.78) — another saying occasionally mistaken for Scripture.
I have two more for you today. “Moderation in all things”
It also is not from scripture. Rather, it is a common reckoning of Aristotle’s Doctrine of the Mean as presented in his Nicomachean Ethics.
Finally, one of my favorites, “Cleanliness is next to Godliness.”
Although our Epistle lesson today closed with the words that we are to keep oneself unstained by the world, this particular quote is not scripture.
There are many things that are said today and people think they are quoting from the scriptures, but truly they have been mislead and in doing so are misleading others what the scriptures do say about how we as the Body of Christ are to be and act.
Jesus in our Gospel lesson today is actually going up against some similar issues. The Pharisees question Jesus why his disciples are not following the Traditions of the elders. Now I want to break down this question as we are so very far removed from the 1st century Jewish faith. In the first century Jewish faith, and actually still to this day you have two books that are held up for examination. One book is called the Torah or the Law. This book we all know by the first five books of the bibles we use in our Christian faith. But then there is a second book called the Talmud. This book is a collection of teachings from Rabbis throughout the times. It would seem apparent that in this scripture from Mark, that the Pharisees were asking Jesus why his disciples were not observing one of the rules from the teachings of the Rabbis, that one must wash their hands before eating. And Jesus responds quite well to what we as Christians are sometimes guilty. Jesus says, “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.” And he sums this up by saying, “You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.”
As I thought long and hard about this passage, I could not help but think of some of the things that we as Christians have taught the public about Christianity by our actions. For instance, we have taught people unless you have the proper clothes, you are not welcome into worship. I am not sure if they are here today or not, but I hope they are. I had a couple who said they would really like to come to church today, but because they did not have the appropriate clothes, they felt that they could not come. This past week, the youth group in their study began to talk about materialism and what the scriptures actually say about materialistic things. In this discussion, we began to talk about owning nice clothes as clothing says a lot about a person. They asked me, “Does this mean that we can wear our pajamas to church?” And my response was very plain to them, I don’t care what you wear. No where in scripture does it say you must look good to follow Christ. No where does it say that you have to dress up in your Sunday best to honor God. We honor God not with what is on the outside of this vessel that God gave us called the Body, but we Honor God with our hearts. In loving God, and loving his creation, including those other people that we may not think too kindly of. By loving and taking care of the world and all that is in it. From being a good steward by recycling to taking care of our fellow humankind. Jesus in his teachings, as we learned form before does not want us to be moderate in all things. Jesus wants us to follow him, and to follow him as we are desperately in love with him.
As I opened up talking about this new game show, Bible Challenge. I have just one issue with the show. Anyone can know the scriptures forward and backward. But God wants us, the Body of Christ, to be DOERS of the word not merely hearers who deceive themselves. Knowing the scriptures does not bring salvation. Rather, we should know the scriptures and also allow them to embody themselves within us. Romans 10:9 says, “If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord AND believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” One of the scariest scriptures in the Gospel comes from the tongue of Jesus. Jesus is teaching on the Mount by the Sea of Galilee and he says, “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. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name? Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me you evil doers.’” Every action, every breath, everything we do should reflect what is taught in the Scriptures. We are called not to be a fan of Christ, but be a follower of Christ. If you want to know the difference in the two, I challenge you, to come out to the Bible Study beginning on Wednesday Night beginning on Sept. 12th. The sign up sheet will be outside as you leave today. Jesus wants us to be Completely Committed FOLLOWERS. Let me close today by giving you a sneak peek into the study, as we remember Jesus does not want lip service, but our hearts.