3rd Sunday before Lent – Sermon 124
Prayer to start
May the words of my lips and the thoughts of our hearts be graciously received for the Glory and Honour of our Lord Jesus Christ
What do we value most in life?
Our home? Our car? Our families? Our friends?
What were the good moments – and what were the bad?
If we had the opportunity to make a clean start – what would we keep – and what would we throw away?
Paul in our NT lesson knew exactly where the rubbish lies
Moses experience on the other hand – reminds us that the choice is not always ours to make
With Lent only a few weeks away – is there something we should be giving up for God
First Point Moses: lesson for the Israelites
Last week we learned how after leading the people out of Egypt – Moses sent twelve spies into the promised land – to see what was ahead of them –
The report that 10 of the spies brought back – that – they felt like grasshoppers in a land of giants – made the people lose faith – and they failed to take the land –
God told the people they would wonder the desert for 40 years – until this generation had died off – and He would then – take the next generation – into the land –
Well its now 38 years later – the new generation had grown up – and it was almost time for that promise to be fulfilled
We take up the story – when the community had arrived at the desert of Zin – and Miriam the prophetess – and sister to Moses and Aaron – had just died –
The community was feeling low – and there was no water – But instead of looking to God for help – they started to blame their leader
“Why have you brought us here to die – why did we leave Egypt – for this terrible place? – Nothing will grow in this place – there is not even any water to drink!”
You can imagine how Moses & Aaron must have felt –
Oh NO! – Not Again! – They’d been putting up with their moaning and groaning all these years – and just as they were about to prepare to go forward into the promised land – they start acting like their parents!
And -instead of sympathy – for the loss of their sister – Moses and Aaron they had to face an angry mob –
So they – went straight to God – and laid the problem before Him – and was told what to do
Moses took the staff – struck the rocks with it – and water gushed out – and they all drank –
But while the men and animals were satisfied – God was not – In our reading – we are told that Moses was reprimanded for his lack of trust – and because ‘ he did not uphold God’s holiness in the sight of the Israelites’
The result was that Moses and Aaron – lost – the opportunity of going forward into the Promised Land –
So – What did they do wrong? – Was it because they struck the rock – instead of talking to it? – Was it the way Moses spoke to the Israelites? – Did he presume too much on himself – and not on God? – Why did they fall at the final hurdle?
Many commentaries suggest it was one of these – or maybe all three – a combination of anger – pride – and lack of faith –
40 years earlier God – opened the rock at Rephidim – (Exod 17) – and provided water for their parents – and but then condemned them to walk in the wilderness – maybe they thought it was going to happen all over again –
Whatever it was – Moses lost it in front of the people – ‘Listen you rebels – must we get water for you out of this rock?’
The people had shown no respect for their situation – and so they in turn – showed no respect for the people’s – The miracle was performed out of resentment – and not love – when the people needed re-assurance they – got an angry response –
Moses – enjoyed the privileges of speaking to God – face to face – he was His chosen ‘ vehicle of communication’ – with his people –
And such an outburst couldn’t be left unpunished – otherwise the people would think it came from God – and not from man –
So because of their sin – and for the sake of the people – Moses and Aaron would have to give up the right to end their days in the land that they had spent most of their lives guiding others to
Such a final act would also be a stark reminder – to those going into the land – that not even Moses’ sin can go unpunished –
Point 2 Paul : lesson for the Philippians
When Paul wrote this letter to the Philippians church – he was probably in his 60’s – and in a Roman prison – expecting to be killed
In his younger days – he was someone who had made it to the top – background – qualifications – attitude – he had it all – a true Jew – and a Pharisee by profession
Until He met Jesus for himself – and then he decided to give it all up
“All such assets I have written off because of Christ” – says Paul – “More than that – I count it so much rubbish – for the sake of gaining Christ”
Paul considered everything he had done outside of Jesus’ influence as worthless
As far as Paul was concerned – our relationship with Jesus – should be our – number one priority – the thing we should strive for most – the thing we should keep
Its only when we count Jesus – as that one pearl of great value for which we spend everything – or the hidden treasure in the field – for which we will gladly trade all – that we can properly get to know Him – and we realize His true value to our lives –
Paul reminds us – that it takes a lifetime to get it right with God – commitment – perseverance – its like running a race – and you don’t get there until you cross the finishing line – and only God knows when that is – and whatever happens – it’s a race we cannot give up on!
The Christian’s goal – and prize – is to become more and more like Jesus – in every way – literally – our lives are to become His – and His life to become ours –
Being a Christian is not a half- hearted affair – its about giving the best we have – for the best that God has for us
We are all hoping to get to heaven – but it won’t be our works that get us there – however good we think they might be – in the end nothing will be good enough – we can only get there if Jesus takes us –
Point 3 Profit & Loss: lesson for us
Which brings us on to our choices –
So – we’ve looked at – what Moses had to give up – and why – what Paul gave up – and why – so what about us – what are we prepared to give up for God?
So far its been pretty strong stuff – both of them had to give up practically – everything they’d worked for? – are we prepared to do that?
Jesus said – ‘Whoever wants to be a follower of mine – must renounce self – take up his cross and follow me – are we prepared to do that?
Paul tells us that our main focus in life should be one of devotion – and destination
Devotion to Jesus – and looking to our destination in heaven
We should be like – citizens of heaven – waiting to be called –
Many a time I’ve sat down in an airport departure gate waiting to board a flight home – as Christians we too are traveling through the gates of this world – to our destination at home with Jesus
We have to choose – between the temporary gains of this world or the longer term benefits of the next – to decide each day – to keep to what God counts as valuable – and discard what He counts as rubbish
We must learn to look at our lives – from a – heavenly perspective – a sort of – profit and loss evaluation of the things we do and say –
And as any accountant – will tell you – its important to try to keep out of the red –
We’ve seen some losses already – so what might the gains be?
Time spent with God in prayer? – is that a loss or a gain?
Time spent in church – praising God – and talking with other Christians – is that a loss or a gain?
Time spent getting to know Jesus – and teaching others to know Him – is that a loss or a gain?
A young sales man was disappointed about losing a big sale – and as he talked with his sales manager about it – he summed up his frustration by saying – ‘It just goes to prove – you can lead a horse to water – but you can’t make him drink”
The manager gave him some important advice – “Your job,” – he said – “is not to make him drink – but to make him thirsty.”
And so it is for us – our lives – our church – should be so filled with Jesus – that it creates a thirst for the Gospel – in others.
Paul reminds us that – instead of focusing on the things we want – we should start to focus on the needs of others
The way we live our lives – and the joy and knowledge of God inside us – should make others thirsty for the ‘living water’ – that God offers us through Jesus –
We need to grow in Christ – and to share Him – and we share Him by imitating Him
So – this Lent – what will we keep and what will we give up?
The gains of this world – or the gains of the next?
What will the profit and loss forecast be for our lives?
Are we prepared to focus ourselves on the most valuable one of all?
Prayer to Finish
In the name of the Father , Son and Holy Spirit