Sermons

Am I One of These

Sun, Dec 11, 2022
Teacher: Mark Hull
Duration:27 mins 44 secs

Message text

"Am I One Of These?”
Amos 5:21-24, Mark 4:15-19

There is a story told about a mother who was sick in bed with the flu. Her little daughter wanted so badly to be a good nurse to her. She fluffed the pillows & brought a magazine for her to read. Then she even surprised her mother with a cup of tea.
"You're such a sweetheart," the mother said as she drank the tea. "I didn't even know you knew how to make tea." "Oh, yes," the little girl replied. "I learned by watching you. I put the tea leaves in the pot. Then I put in the water & boiled it, & then strained it into a cup. But I couldn't find a strainer, so I used the flyswatter instead."
"You what?" the mother screamed. The little girl said, "Oh, don't worry, Mama, I didn't use the new flyswatter. I used the old one."
Now I felt a little hesitant about telling you that story. But when kids try so hard to do something, & yet get it wrong in spite of themselves, what's a parent to do? You've got to love them for trying, at least!
Some years ago Pres. Kennedy spoke at an awards banquet of the National Football Foundation. In his speech he said:
"It looks as if our great national sport is no longer playing, but watching. We are becoming less & less a nation of athletes, & more & more a nation of spectators.”
What Pres. Kennedy was concerned about for our nation, many of us are concerned about for the church.
There is an interesting passage in the Book of Amos where God is speaking to the Jewish nation, to His people, & He is not speaking very kindly to them.
He had done so much for them. He had freed them from slavery in Egypt. He had delivered the Promised Land into their hands. He had blessed King David & King Solomon & made their reigns the golden age of Jewish history.
But now all that was past, & in Amos 5:21-23 God said to them, "“I hate, I despise your feast days, And I do not savor your sacred assemblies.
22 Though you offer Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them, Nor will I regard your fattened peace offerings.
23 Take away from Me the noise of your songs, For I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments.

What happened? Why was God so angry with them? The next verse (vs. 24) makes it plain. God says, "But let justice run down like water, And righteousness like a mighty stream.
Evidently, the people in Amos' day were faithful in going through all the rituals. They attended the services. They kept the holy feasts. They gave generously of burnt offerings & grain offerings.

They sang their songs of praise to God, & played their harps. But God rejected their worship. Why? Because their lives didn't measure up to what they professed.
They gave lip service to God, but there was no justice or righteousness in their lives. They didn't even try to live the way God wanted them to live.
And that was true in Jesus' day, too. For we hear Him saying in Matt. 23:23, "“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.

They went through all the right forms, attended all the services, were very careful to give every bit of their tithes & offerings. But Jesus still cried out to them, "Woe to you!"
My concern this morning is about the possibility that Jesus could say the same thing today. Is there any way in which we might find ourselves in the same condition as the people in Amos' day, or in Jesus' day? I'm afraid so. It appears that there are at least 3 different types of people, or attitudes that are present.

The 1st of these are the "Performers," people who are putting on an act, whose lives just don't match up with what they are trying to get people to believe about them.
Sometimes these people are in positions of leadership & prominence. They are in the limelight, busy, active, there for all the people to see.

A while back a major TV channel featured a story about a preacher accused of trying to kill his wife so that he could marry the woman with whom he was having an affair. They spent almost an hour going over the whole sordid story.

News stories in the past few years exposing the private lives of some religious celebrities have made us sadly aware that they must have been merely performing. Their lives do not seem even to come close to matching up with what they professed.

It's bad enough that they made shipwreck of their own lives, but they also brought disillusionment & dismay into the lives of many who trusted & followed them.
Meanwhile, many in the world clap their hands, convinced more than ever that there is no reason to listen to the message of Jesus.
Why did it happen?
How did it happen?
Were they "performers" from the very beginning?
Have they always just been putting on an act? Well, I doubt it.
Do you remember the parable of the sower? Jesus tells us that the sower went forth to sow. As he cast the seed some fell on the hard-packed path, some among the rocks, some fell among the thorns, & some fell on good ground.

Well, in Mark 4:18-19 Jesus explains about the seed that fell among the thorns. He said, "“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.

Is that what happened to these celebrities? Did they start off full of enthusiasm, but then other things entered in? Did they come to the place where they accepted & desired all the praise they were getting?

Did they see all the riches the world can give, & begin to covet that, too? Did they begin to see their ministry as their empire to control & manipulate? The Apostle John warned about a man named Diotrephes in (3 John vs. 9), "9 I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us.

But "performers" are not found only among religious celebrities. It is just as possible for those who are sitting in the pews, who are not in the limelight, to be "performing" too.
You can participate in every part of the service sing & pray & partake of communion. But if there is no noticeable change for good in your life, the world will see the way you live, & come to the conclusion that you're putting on an act, & call you a "hypocrite."

Matthew 7:21 says 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them. 21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.
The father & mother who are merely "performing" soon disillusion their children, their relatives, & many precious souls are lost for all eternity.

But thank God, it is a two way street. Just as one can start out in eager dedication, & end up a "performer", so those who have been "performing" can switch their lives around and turned back to Jesus.

There is a saying that "expressions create impressions." Even as we are "performing," there is a chance that our lives will be touched, that something will sink in, & once again we’ll be what God wants us to be.

Some songs we sing affect me greatly. Whenever we sing "Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee; How Great Thou Art, how great Thou art!" I want to proclaim that He is my Lord & my God, also.

And how about "It Is Well With My Soul?" "Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, ‘It is well, it is well with my soul.'" I love to sing that song, too!

Maybe it will be a sermon you hear, verses in Gods Word you read and discuss in Bible Study. or seeing the lives of others being changed. Maybe you'll catch the vision again, repent of your sins, no longer "performing," but now rededicating yourself to God.

Another group to be found in almost every congregation are the “Spectators." They are present, but they are not really participating.
Some of these could be called "Attenders." They may be present for any number of reasons. Maybe they're there because of social contacts their friends come, so they come too. Their family goes to church, so they go, too.

Maybe the "attenders" are present because they feel it is expected of them they ought to be in church "after all, it's the right thing to do." Whatever the reason, the "attenders" are usually uninterested in what is going on, & unconcerned about others around them.
So the "attender" gets involved in various diversions and the terrible thing is that usually the people around them become painfully aware of these diversions. As a result, their meditation & prayers are disturbed. Their train of thought is broken.
The heart that is being touched by the invitation of Jesus Christ is rudely yanked back to a world of carelessness & callousness.

A minister tells of one of the saddest moments in his life happened one Sunday years ago when 6 teenagers, 5 of them church members, were sitting all together on a pew.
The one who wasn't a Christian was a friend of one of the others on that row. He had been attending church services for several weeks, & was now seriously considering the most important decision of his life, the decision of being baptized for the remission of his sins.
The invitation hymn was being sung. He was at the end of the pew right at the aisle, leaning forward, listening intently & seemingly almost ready to step out to make his decision for Jesus.
When suddenly, one of the kids whispered a joke, & 2 or 3 of them laughed. The young man's concentration was broken.

I saw him turn toward them with an irritated look on his face, & then, when the service was over, he walked out of the church building not to return again for nearly 3 years. Three years! It might have been for all eternity. A soul that was lost!

I want to look again at the parable of the sower. Jesus said, "Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes & takes away the word that was sown in them" (Mark 4:15)

I am so thankful that one of those teenagers realized what had happened, & tried to do something about it. But it took 3 years to undo the harm that was done in just a few moments. It took 3 years to convince that young man once again that Jesus Christ was really worthy of his serious consideration.  But not all "spectators" are uninterested in what is going on, wrapped up in their own little world.

Some are present as "Searchers," hoping to find something that is worthwhile.
They may just be curious, or confused, looking for something that will meet a need in their lives. So they're watching, listening, observing. They look at the people around them, noticing how they treat each other, how they act, & the looks on their faces. Do the people really care about each other? Or about Jesus?

These "searchers" are oftentimes a bit ill at ease. They're unfamiliar with the church service & self conscious about it. They may not know anybody else there, & may feel that people are looking & wondering about them.
"Searchers" are usually very sensitive about what is going on around them &, depending on where they are sitting,

They may be unlucky enough to sit near "attenders" engaged in their own little diversion. And the "searcher" is wondering where on earth his search has led him.
But what an opportunity the "searcher" presents. Not only is their soul precious to God, loved by Jesus, but Paul says in Hebrews 13:2, " Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.

If you are a "searcher" here with us today, please realize that we're all sinners, and that we all fall short of what we ought to be. But thanks to Jesus, we can have the forgiveness of our sins.
As the Psalmist wrote in Psalm 40:2, "He also brought me up out of a horrible pit,
Out of the miry clay,
And set my feet upon a rock,
And established my steps.
God does love us!

This morning we have mentioned "Performers" & "Spectators" but there is one more very important group to consider – the “Worshipers.”
Jesus told the woman at the well in John 4:23, "But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.

Why are we here today? I trust that you're here to worship to show your love for God, for Jesus Christ to be a living witness to others of what Jesus means to you to encourage others by your presence to share what God has given you to be challenged to refuel to arm yourself for the battles of life.
Maybe you're here, too, like the old man who said, "I go to church to let everybody know which side I'm on."
But may I suggest some ways to make the church service really a time of worship for you & for others?

You can worship by putting a smile on your face & in your heart as you make the stranger welcome. You can worship by putting the activities & cares of the day out of your mind, focusing your thoughts on Jesus, especially as you partake of Communion with Him.
You can worship by listening to the preaching of God's Word, despite the limitations of the preacher, knowing that there is power in the Word to change lives, to point us in the right direction, & to make us effective in whatever we seek to do for Him.
You can worship by silently praying for the lost, for those who have decisions to make for Jesus, as we stand and sing the song of invitation.

 

 

Sermon Contributor: Melvin Newland

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