Each sermon is published in large print for use in preaching, and for easy reading by several people gathered around the computer monitor.
THE LIVING RESULT OF A TRULY SOFT HEART
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
15 JANUARY 1989
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
Leviticus 17:3-5, 10-11
1 John 3:13-24
In the 5th chapter of the Revelation of Jesus Christ to John, we are presented
with a glimpse of heaven and, in particular, of a time at the beginning of the
We see many heavenly beings, including myriads of animals and many human beings who have gone on to heaven, and a search is being made of all who are in heaven to find anyone who is worthy to break the seven seals on the book of judgment.
And do you know that no one was found worthy enough to break the seals? No one was found worthy enough to pass judgment upon the earth; that is except one, and that one is the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ.
All who had come to heaven had sinned beforehand, had repented of their sins, accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, and their sins had been forgiven; but none of them were found worthy enough to pass judgment.
They all were probably worthy of judging their own former way of life, and even the ways of life of the people around them.
Many may even have been worthy enough to point out the sins of others to them, so that they might come to repentance.
But none were found worthy enough to pass judgment upon the unrepentant sinners; that is, except Jesus Christ.
And as we see in Revelation 5:9-10, they acknowledged the holiness and righteousness of God in a special way.
9. And they sang a new song, saying,
"Worthy art Thou to take the book, and to break its seals; for Thou wast slain, and didst purchase for God with Thy blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.
10. "And Thou hast made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth."
O Lord, open our eyes more fully this day, that we might all become softer in heart, that we might reach out in love to all of creation equally as You do.
That we would see that all you living beings, human and otherwise were
created as living souls who are worthy of our love, compassion, and protection,
and that in this heavenly love we would love and protect the environment in
which we all live.
Guide and direct this service to Your glory, in Jesus' name. Amen.
(HYMN – Morning Has Broken)
O Lord, just as each morning is a reminder to us of Your creation – a reminder that in the beginning all things and animals and people were created sinless – help us also to see the sin that we have brought upon ourselves, so that we might desire to change, to truly love each other, and to be more like Jesus. Amen.
Just as we saw in Revelation 5:9 that the blood of Jesus Christ purchased repentant sinners from every tribe and of every spoken language and of every people and nation, so should we also accept them.
The only distinction that God makes between one people and another is that He will separate repentant believers from the rest of the people.
Remember, none of us is worthy enough to pass judgment; thus we cannot condemn even the unrepentant sinner of a people who are different from us.
Reflect also upon the Hymn we just sang.
Are we truly aware of God's love in all of His creation?
Does our whole being revitalize when we see the morning
re-creation, as the writer of this Hymn obviously does?
Does our love extend to all of God's creation?
Do we allow our love to show forth to others?
Do we also sing praises as the writer of Psalm 57 does in verses 7-11?
(SCRIPTURE READING – Psalm 57:7-11)
7. My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast;
I will sing, yes, I will sing praises!
8. Awake, my glory;
Awake, harp and lyre,
I will awaken the dawn!
9. I will give thanks to Thee, O Lord, among the peoples;
I will sing praises to Thee among the nations.
10. For Thy lovingkindness is great to the heavens,
And Thy truth to the clouds.
11. Be exalted above the heavens, O God;
Let Thy glory be above all the earth.
Do we truly feel the way this psalmist feels?
Do we exalt in the Lord as he does?
Do we have compassion for all of God's creation, even for the trees, as God tells the people of Israel when they are about to carry out His judgment upon the land of Canaan, in Deuteronomy 20:19-20?
(SCRIPTURAL READING – Deuteronomy 20:19-20)
19. "When you besiege a city a long time, to make war against it in order to
capture it, you shall not destroy its trees by swinging an axe against them; for
you may eat from them, and you shall not cut them down. For is the tree of the
field a man, that it should be besieged by you?
20. "Only the trees which you know are not fruit trees you shall destroy and cut down, that you may construct siegeworks against the city that is making war with you until it falls.
A tree does not make a decision to turn away from God as man does, but the tree grows as God has told it to grow and to produce fruit.
Are we like the fruit trees?
Are we producing the fruit that God has called upon us to produce?
Do we truly love each other, as God loves us?
Do we love each other enough to end our warring madness, and the suffering
and death we cause to millions of our fellow human beings and billions of
animals every year?
If the answer to any of these questions is no, then we have something to repent.
Take a moment in silence and meditate on our own lives, the way we relate to others and the way we relate to all of God's creation; and confess those things to Him that are not wholly loving and compassionate, so that we might live better lives as children of God.
(CONFESSION AND ASSURANCE)
(THE LORD'S PRAYER)
Probably the basic problem that the human race has is that we consider ourselves to be far more important than we are.
We put levels of success around ourselves, and desire to be on one of the higher levels. And while that in itself may not be bad, we make it a sin when we do it at the expense of others, whether human beings or other animals.
We become hard of heart, and thus are indifferent to the suffering of others, if it will give us more for ourselves.
Start by thinking about this with something simple, such as what we eat.
Think of what God's word tells us:
From the beginning of creation there was to be no death and no killing.
Man's original sin brought about death, a death that was both physical and spiritual, a death that caused a separation between us and God.
The symbol of their sin was their nakedness, which God only covered with skin after passing judgment on the serpent and Adam and Eve and all future generations.
No where in the Bible account do we see any true repentance from anyone, or that any animal was sacrificed for their skin.
Religious stories and lessons to the contrary to what the Bible teaches us, and such teachings only reinforce our hardness of heart, and do not restore us to God's loving creation intent.
Even though that may not have been the intent of such teachings, it didn't end our sin and lead us to true repentance.
It only taught us that we could scapegoat an innocent animal and use his shed blood to cover our sins.
They say that God showed them that an innocent animal must die as a substitute for them; the soul of the animal for their soul (Leviticus 17:11), so that they might have a deep sorrow because of the death of that animal, and sin no more.
And as we all can plainly see, that never came to be.
Man's food was to be only plant life. They were not to kill or eat animals, for God created the animals in the same way that He created man, and man was to respect that.
Man didn't respect that, and in fact killed other people and animals for emotional reasons, and began to eat flesh.
Mankind's evil continued until God could stand it no longer; thus He flooded the world, and only those on the ark survived.
And when man got off the ark, God gave him the concession of eating meat, because He knew the heart of man was evil from his youth; but from the beginning it was never to be that way.
Even many years later, when Moses led the people out of Egypt, God told the Israelites they were not to be like the peoples of other nations; they were to hold the death of any animal, killed for food, as being sacred to the Lord. Note what we are told in Leviticus 17:3-5 and 10-11.
(SCRIPTURE READING – Leviticus 17:3-5, and 10-11)
3. "Any man from the house of Israel who slaughters an ox, or a lamb, or a goat
in the camp, or who slaughters it outside the camp,
4. and has not brought it to the doorway of the tent of meeting to present it as an offering to the Lord before the tabernacle of the Lord, bloodguiltiness is to be reckoned to that man. He has shed blood and that man shall be cut off from among his people.
5. "The reason is so that the sons of Israel may bring their sacrifices which they were sacrificing in the open field, that they may bring them in to the Lord, at the doorway of the tent of meeting to the priest, and sacrifice them as sacrifices of peace offerings to the Lord.
10. ‘And any man from the house of Israel, or from the aliens who sojourn among them, who eats any blood, I will set My face against that person who eats blood, and will cut him off from among his people.
11. "For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.’
Remember that all of this is part of the concession, but human beings for the most part continued their heartless killing of animals with no regard to God's limitations.
Why are we talking about animals when this is human relations day?
We are doing it because the killing of any living thing, even of trees, was to bring remorse to the depth of our very souls.
For the more and more we constantly accept killing of any kind as being all right, the harder and harder of heart we become, and the less and less we will feel for our fellow man.
God wants us to be soft of heart so that He can work in us, and that we will love and care, as He does.
God has made us all, and He holds the whole world in His hands.
(HYMN – He's Got the Whole World in His Hands)
Yes, God does have the whole world in His hands.
And He's holding on to you, my brothers; and He's holding on to you, my sisters; and He's holding on to me.
But none of us is more important than another in the overall picture of God's creation, for what God has done will continue on without us.
Listen to what Job told Zophar about God's creation and our relationship to it, in 12:7-12.
(SCRIPTURE READING – Job 12:7-12)
7. "But now ask the beasts, and let them teach you;
And the birds of the heavens, and let them tell you.
8. "Or speak to the earth, and let it teach you;
And let the fish of the sea declare to you.
9. "Who among all these does not know
That the hand of the Lord has done this,
10. In whose hand is the life of every living thing,
And the breath of all mankind?
11. "Does not the ear test words,
As the palate tastes its food?
12. "Wisdom is with aged men,
With long life is understanding.
Job, in acknowledging that mankind is unable to know all of the ways of God, is telling Zophar (and all of us) that because of all that God has done, and by our truly observing His creation, we can know all that we need to know about Him.
Mankind should never have to question whether or not God created everything.
All of creation speaks to us of that fact.
And since our loving and caring God did make everything, and all the animals, and all of us, who are we to question God's purposes?
And who are we to consider one person better than another?
We are but dust, and to dust we shall return, and all the dust is equal.
So do not waste your time worrying about your own position in relation to someone else's position.
Instead, rejoice in all that God has done.
Enjoy the differences.
Be thankful that you have days that differ one from another, and that you have many and varied weather conditions.
Be thankful that you have different kinds of food to eat, and seasonings with which to flavor them.
Be thankful that we don't have just one kind of animal, and we can have joy in listening to them and observing them.
And above all be thankful that every other person in the world isn't exactly like you; for if we were all exactly alike, we would think and act exactly the same way, and do it all at the same time. How boring!
Therefore, enjoy each other exactly as we are, without taking advantage of anyone, and love each other as we want to be loved.
(SHARING OF OUR JOYS, BLESSINGS, AND CONCERNS)
(HYMN – They'll Know We Are Christians by Our Love)
If the world sees our love for one another, without any reservations as to what we look like, or how we speak, or any other differences we may have, they will know we are Christians.
And if we don't show our love in this manner, then whatever we say as so-called Christians will be perceived by the rest of the world as being a lie, and particularly by those we don't love.
Note what we are told by Jesus in John 13:34-35.
(SCRIPTURE READING – John 13:34-35)
34. "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have
loved you, that you also love one another.
35. "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."
If we are truly followers of Christ, if we are truly Christians, then we will obey our Lord and do as He tells us.
And if we find it really hard to love someone, then we should begin to pray for that person until the Lord works on both of us, and we grow to love them.
And yes, there are some really bad people in this world; but their evilness has nothing to do with their color or language. It only has to do with their lack of relationship with God, and their close relationship with the devil. And we can still show our love by praying for them; for who knows – they might be convicted and change.
God can work miracles!
And do not worry about what the world may say or do because of your sincere love, but remember what we are told in 1 John 3:13¬24.
(SCRIPTURE READING – 1 John 3:13-24)
13. Do not marvel, brethren, if the world hates you.
14. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death.
15. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
16. We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
17. But whoever has the world's goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?
18. Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.
19. We shall know by this that we are of the truth, and shall assure our heart before Him,
20. in whatever our heart condemns us; for God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.
21. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God;
22. and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight.
23. And this is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commands us.
24. And the one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And we know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.
The question comes down to this: do we love and trust God enough to love each other as He commanded us to do?
If we have a struggle within us in expressing or actually loving others, then we are missing a very important part of our relationship with the Lord.
If He abides in us, then we will be like Him, for His love will be in us.
But if His love is not within us, then we are still being fearful. We don't really trust God and allow Him to be God; for when we do, He will make us like Him, and we will love each other as God loves us.
But as we more and more learn to allow God to be God, the more of His love we will be able to give to others, and the more we will allow to be given to us.
And in our sharing of this love, we will be lifted up, both physically and spiritually.
(HYMN – Love Lifted Me)
We have fear because the things of the world draw us away from God's love.
We fear because there is sin in our lives, and we are afraid it will be seen by others, or more importantly, by God.
And since love cancels fear, we are afraid to love, for it will open us up to the ridicule of others.
But God is above all this, and so can we be lifted above it.
Don't fear love.
Don't be afraid to reach out to God to free you from your sins and fears.
God's love is all around us. If we want to receive it, all we have to do is ask.
Receive God's love!
Share that love with others!
Love each other as God loves us!