Well, this past week has been an eventful one for me! Hunting season started early for me. I got a six point buck this week! (Show picture one) Unfortunately I got it with the front end of my van (Show picture two)! I praise the Lord that while the van was totaled, my body wasn’t and I have had no aches, pains, bumps or bruises as a result of the accident. That makes the third time in a year and a half that something has happened to my vehicle while traveling to Anderson, Indiana for meetings. You think there is a message in that somewhere?
Thanks for all of your expressions of concern about the accident and all of your jokes about me getting a bigger buck than Thom ever has! We love our church family, and you all help to keep the atmosphere light and entertaining.
To our best calculations, we are well over $12,000.00 in walk-a-thon pledges. That is about $2,000.00 per blister. Keep promoting it with me as we have a week and a day left before I take off. If you would like to give a letter to an employer, family member or friend that explains why I am walking 63 miles across Putnam County starting a week from tomorrow, please pick one up.
1 Peter 2:21 is where we are focused now for the third week in a row. “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.”
To recap, we have learned we are to: walk obediently, to walk with anticipation, to walk with determination, to live by the Spirit in order to keep in step with the Spirit, to walk in a manner worthy of the calling in order to bear fruit, and to walk by faith.
Today I want to explore with you that we are to walk in love, to walk in peace, and to walk in generosity.
Walk in Love
Hear Ephesians 5:1-2 from the NKJV: Paul says: “Therefore be followers of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma” (Eph. 5:1-2).
How do we walk in love? Remember, Jesus is our example. Jesus walked in love as He humbled Himself. Before He performed any miracle, before He preached any sermon, before He called any disciples, He humbled Himself.
He emptied Himself of His divinity before even coming to earth as a baby. He let go of all of His “rights.” Though He had the right to demand equality with God, though He had the right to be worshiped as God, though He had the right to call the shots as God the Father, He relinquished all of those rights in order to accomplish the Father’s mission of love. Love was born in a manger only because Jesus came with one agenda, the Father’s, which was to love the world through Jesus’ life, death, burial and resurrection.
Think about that. Jesus gave up His rights to be acknowledged as God out of love for us. How quick are we to demand our rights, express our rights, and make sure everyone knows how hard we’ve worked, how much we have sacrificed, and why we should be noted, appreciated and thanked! Oh how self often gets in the way of the expression of love. Pure love flows from a position of humility.
If we are to love like Jesus, we won’t be concerned with putting our needs in front of others. We won’t consider ourselves better than others. (Phil. 2). We walk in love as we live with one agenda, the Father’s agenda, which is still the same. It is to show His love to the world. That kind of humility is sacrificial. Giving up your right to demand anything is a sacrifice. Being willing to toss aside “what you’ve earned” in order to show God’s love to someone, checking your ego at the door, reaching to all people regardless of what they can offer you in return, those choices all require sacrifice.
Again, before Jesus ever performed a miracle, preached a sermon or called any disciples, He paid a great price in sacrificing His divinity. Humility and sacrifice are at the heart of love. Let that roll around in your mind and spirit for just a minute.
What would happen if everyone in this room adopted one agenda in our families? What if each of us lived for showing God’s love to our spouses, our children, our grandchildren, our aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, cousins, and so on? What if we made up our minds that no matter what we were going to love our family like Jesus loved? What if that commitment extended to our neighbors, co-workers, classmates, friends and strangers?
Let me remind you of something. Love IS the most powerful force for “God is love.” (I John. 4:8) Our greatest hope for seeing our communities transformed is in showing God’s love in humility through sacrifice to the world around us.
Listen to Ephesians 5:1-2 again: “Be followers of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.” (Eph. 5:1-2)
We become a sweet-smelling aroma to God when we walk in love as Christ did, humbly and sacrificially. But God isn’t the only One who will catch a whiff of our “perfume” when we act that way. Listen to II Cor. 2:15 from the Living Bible: “As far as God is concerned there is a sweet, wholesome fragrance in our lives. It is the fragrance of Christ within us, an aroma to both the saved and the unsaved all around us.”
When we walk in love through humility and sacrifice, we will smell good not only to God, but to the world around us! Do you know when you smell extra good people notice, and some people tell you? I’m serious! Just two Sundays ago I was in McDonalds before I came to church and a man getting tea next to me told me how great I smelled! It was a little creepy, but I’m glad someone noticed I had taken a minute to spray on some perfume! All creepiness and kidding aside, people will be attracted to the smell of humility and sacrifice in your life. It will be so compelling they will start to make comments and ask you questions about the fragrance you are wearing, the fragrance of Christ!
In Matthew 22:37-40 Jesus said the whole law of God hangs on loving God and others correctly. That is why the Apostle Paul, in his discourse on love in I Corinthians 13 said, “Without love you are nothing.” It is THE most important path to take. It is THE most vital thing to emulate and execute. Jesus said it was THE key to the whole law of God.
Our problem is we have emphasized the feeling and idea of love, the “what’s in it for me” part of love, rather than the humility and sacrifice of love. Remember what I Corinthians 13 says, “Love doesn’t demand its own way or keep a record of wrongs. It is patient and kind. It’s not rude or jealous.” The end of Paul’s description about love in I Corinthians says “Love never fails.” True love won’t fail because it is based in humility and sacrifice.
Walking in love will prepare the way for us to secondly, walk in peace. You are much more likely to live peacefully with people when you have loved them with humility and sacrifice. Now remember, we want to walk in Jesus’ steps. That means we want to walk in peace as Jesus walked in peace. Jesus said in John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
Notice Jesus said He was leaving His peace with His followers. If you are in Christ, you have peace. You simply have to walk in it, to stay in Christ’s peace. If you are a Christian and you don’t have peace this morning, you are doing something or you are allowing something to disrupt that peace because Jesus has already given it to you.
Be reminded that Satan wants to steal from you, kill you and destroy you (John 10:10). I think one of the first things he goes after is your peace. If he can rob you of your peace, he can get you to believe all kinds of craziness and he can prompt you to act out in all kinds of craziness. So, if your peace is disrupted and you are riled up about something or someone, you need to stop and ask yourself, “What have I done to disrupt the peace Jesus has given to me?” or “What have I allowed to disrupt the peace Jesus has given to me?” or “What has Satan done to try to disrupt the peace Jesus has given to me?”
If you can answer those questions you can stop doing what you are doing that disrupts your peace, you can quit allowing what has disrupted your peace, and/or you can take authority of the evil one who is seeking to steal your peace.
Notice that the peace Jesus said He has left with us is His peace, and you can imagine that His peace is different from the world’s peace. The kind of peace Jesus displayed showed He was ok with being humble. He was ok with sacrifice. He was able to endure difficulty, hardship, abandonment, persecution and crucifixion. That is a durable peace! In other words, Jesus’ peace didn’t depend on anything going His way. It didn’t depend on Him being applauded, followed, or even comfortable. His peace came from knowing He was right with God and was on target to accomplish God’s mission. In that respect, He was always in control of whether He would have peace or not have peace. He could decide to be in line with the Father’s mission or He could go His own way. Because He chose the will of the Father daily, He had daily peace.
You and I have the same choice. Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” You have a choice whether you are going to live a peace-filled life or not. It starts by having peace with God and by living daily for Him. You can also be in control of your emotions. You can put a stop acting on emotion and losing your peace.
What we do with how we feel will ultimately determine how lasting our peace is. We are not 2 year olds who have to throw a fit out of desperation and frustration. We can decide to manage our emotions appropriately and responsibly. Lord, help us reach maturity in this area! I can’t fathom how much different our world would be if everyone would manage their emotional selves appropriately and responsibly. Does anyone agree with me that, that would be a great thing to see happen?
I Peter 3:10:1110 For, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. 11 He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it.
Don’t you want to enjoy life? Even if you aren’t in good health, you want to enjoy life as much as possible, right? Even if you feel like you are buried in academics and overloaded with classes, you want to enjoy life, right? Even if your home life is busy and it’s difficult to keep up with the kids, the housework, and all of the other responsibilities of life, you want to enjoy life, right? Even if deadlines and work and the expectations of your boss are demanding, you want to enjoy life, right? Even if you have to deal with “EGR” people (that’s “extra grace required” people) on a daily basis, you want to enjoy life, right? Even if you wish some things about your life were different, you want to enjoy life. Peter gives us the formula for enjoying life! It invovles pursuing peace! For that he gives us the steps:
- Keep your tongue free from evil, and don’t speak deceitfully. One way to disrupt your peace is to get into a war of words with someone on Facebook, via email or text, to their face or worse yet, behind their back. As soon as you start talking negatively about someone to anyone else, you have created division. Division destroys peace. It doesn’t matter if the person you are talking to is your BFF and they promise not say anything to the person you are speaking about. What you say about someone else to your best friend will change the way your BFF thinks about that person and will ultimately impact the way your BFF treats that person. That disrupts peace.
Remember, everyone is someone’s child, sister or brother, niece or nephew, cousin, etc. What you say involves more than the person you are talking about, but it can impact entire families. If you respond to every person who wrongs you humbly and sacrificially (in love) you will keep your peace intact. Not one good thing will come from you venting negatively about other people. If you talk about someone to try to get back or to get even it will lead to a disruption of your peace. The minute you try to defame someone else’s character, your own character is compromised. Let other people’s words and actions speak for themselves. You, however, seek peace.
I must lift a paragraph from the Bible Exposition Commentary on this subject because it is too good:
As Christians, we can live on one of three levels. We can return evil for good, which is the satanic level. We can return good for good and evil for evil, which is the human level. Or, we can return good for evil, which is the divine level. (Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) – New Testament – The Bible Exposition Commentary – New Testament, Volume 2.)
Remember, we are following in Christ’s footsteps. Here is our verse from I Peter again, with the following verses added: 1 Peter 2:21-23: To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.
Don’t disrupt your peace by retaliating with angry words! Do you want to know why Jesus could pray, “Father forgive them” while He hung on the cross, bloodied and beaten? He could pray for others to be forgiven because He never lost His peace over what other people did to Him! I’m talking to several people this morning!! Exodus 14:14 (NKJV) reiterates I Peter 2:23, “The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.”
When you are hurt by the words or actions of others, you can call on the Prince of Peace to fight for you! Jesus will be involved in your situation. God the Father will come to your aid. God will deal justly with those who do wrong. He can speak to your persecutor more effectively than you can. Trust Him to deal with the injustices you face, but YOU, you HOLD onto your peace! If you get upset and act emotionally it will disrupt your peace and create a bigger mess so that takes you longer to get your peace back than if you would have kept your mouth shut in the first place!
So we are to keep our tongues from evil and we aren’t to speak deceitfully. In addition, I Peter 3:11 says we are to turn from evil and to do good. How many times a day are we faced with a choice to sin? It is constant, right? We must learn to consistently do that which pleases the Lord. Sin against God is not only an offense to Him, but it is a stumbling block to us. Sinning will never do us any good. What Satan disguises as happiness eventually leads to loss, namely a loss of peace. Perhaps the most precious thing we can possess in life as saved people is peace of mind.
When you have to start asking yourself questions like, “What have I done?” “Why didn’t I listen to my parents?” “Why didn’t I stop it before it started?” “Why did I let it get out of hand?” “Why didn’t I follow the warning signs?” you know you are in trouble. The fact that you find yourself asking those questions means someone has been hurt or disappointed or that there has been a physical, relational, or financial consequence to pay.
Finally, we are to walk in generosity. 1 Timothy 6:17-19 says Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.
I want to live every part of my life to the best of my ability to please God and bless others. That includes being well-prepared for messages like this. It involves showing care and concern for others when I am aware they are hurting. It means giving of my time to support and encourage. Just as I said last week that it is not ok to be a fruitless Christian, it is also not ok to be a stingy Christian. Did you hear the firm words Paul used? “Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.” Everything God prescribes is good for us, glorifies Him, and blesses others. Have you ever thought about that? You are killing three birds with one stone when you live God’s way. Talk about an efficient and effective way to live.
Just as our peace is tied to love as we respond humbly and sacrificially to people, our generosity also flows out of love. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) Generous giving flows from a generous love.
I have experienced it to be true in my own life. I give in tithes and offerings to God because I love Him. He has knocked my socks off. He has rescued me. He has loved me with an everlasting love. His daily presence in my life through relationship with Him is enabling me to live my best possible life. I want to honor Him with my resources as one way to show Him I am reciprocating His love for me. Therefore, Thom and I tithe 10% of our gross income and give offerings beyond that.
In the same way, what we give to help others reveals our love for people. Your commitment to give a gift above your tithes over the next three years to our capital campaign isn’t about building a building. It is about loving people.
We have told this community we are all about people through acts of service and outreach over the past six years. We’ve done a whole lot. There has been a lot of time invested and sacrificed. But when you look at it from a financial standpoint, most of what we have done has required little financially from us as individuals. Bringing in candy, chips, and pop or supplying Christmas presents for a family in need hasn’t set any of us back too far.
We are seeking to raise 1.3 million dollars in this campaign. That is a big number. It is huge. We want every one of you to come to the banquet this Saturday night at 5 pm at Hurricane First Baptist Church to hear more. We want all of you to come back next Sunday for “commitment Sunday” and turn in a pledge that you have prayed about giving over the next three years. Show your love for God by honoring Him with your tithe. Show your love for this community by being generous with your pledge.
Remember, we are seeking to walk in Jesus’ footprints. No, I can’t point you to a passage in Scripture that says, “Jesus took out His wallet and gave someone some money.” But I can tell you He spent His life meeting people’s needs, their physical, relational, emotional, and spiritual needs. He did that as He walked from town to town.
Today, you and I are called to do that as we encounter those in need. As a church, we are to do that by providing a place where those kinds of needs can be met.
Everyone Jesus encountered got more than they were hoping for from the encounter. Maybe they hoped for healing and they also got forgiveness. Maybe they hoped for a friend and they found a teacher they could follow for life. Maybe they hoped for food and they were provided for leftovers to take home. Maybe they hoped to learn from Jesus, but they found themselves being served by Him as He washed their feet. That is what generosity is!! It is about giving people more than they could hope for. Through “Mission Possible” could we give our community more than they could ever hope for?
I will not call out this individual’s name as I did not ask permission to share this and wouldn’t want to embarrass anyone, but in a recent meeting with some folks where we had a time of prayer, one individual prayed, “Thank You, Lord, that out of all of the churches in the valley, you gave our church this mission, this opportunity to love our community.” That prayer took my breath away. God has given us a special one-of-a-kind opportunity to generously sow into the hearts and homes of our community through the development of a new community and ministry center which will be a place folks can come to every day of the week and be helped. He has chosen us for this mission of generosity. How precious. How unbelievable! What an adventure!
Walk in Jesus’ footprints. Walk in love. Walk in peace. Walk in generosity. Let’s walk that way, together.