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DO WE FULLY BELIEVE GOD, OR DO WE STILL WANT TO BARGAIN WITH HIM?

A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS

18 JULY 1993

Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

Genesis 28:18-22
Psalm 139:23-24
Matthew 5:6, 9
Colossians 1:1-8

Have you ever fantasized about something?

We fantasize, or play make-believe, even when we are adults, because the situations in our own lives don't seem to be coming up to our expectations. Thus, while buried in our imaginary world, we make ourselves feel better.

But do we come to believe our fantasies?

Just because we want something to be better, or different, doesn't necessarily make it so, or even possible in the future; and no fantasy can ever change the past.

But there are those daydreams that involve our realistic future. In these we look at our potential successes in our chosen fields of work, in our education, and in our families; and how we are going to work to achieve their realization.

And then there are those dreams we have of being with the Lord, both here on earth, and later in heaven.

The only truly futuristic hopes we can absolutely rely upon, are those promises given us by the Lord.

We sometimes play games with our own minds, even believing an untruth; but God never does that with us. He always tells us the truth, and thus, we can believe it will come true. And what is more, we can even act upon that future hope, now. This is faith!

If we are in a true fantasy, all of the interaction we have is in our own mind.

But in our efforts to achieve the results of our realistic future successes that we have dreamed about, we find ourselves interacting with many other people.

And part of this interaction may involve a form of bargaining: you do this for me, and I'll do that for you.

We use this bargaining technique in many aspects of our everyday life: in shopping for the best buys, in negotiating a contract, and in trying to get someone to do something.

As a result of these fantasies, daydreams, and bargaining way of life, we quite often make the mistake of approaching God in the same manner. And nothing could be further from the way we should behave.

We can and should ask God to honor a request for something within His will for us, but we should never bargain with Him over such a point.

God has told us over and over again how we are to live, and we are to live that way even if he never gives us anything more than He has promised to give everyone else.

This is called living by faith.

It is in this light that we are going to look at a few passages in God's Word.

Let's begin by looking at ourselves as believers in a corrupt society such as the ancient city of Colossae, having just received a letter from the Apostle Paul. (Colossians 1:1-8)

1. Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,

2. to the saints and faithful brethren who are at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.

Notice how Paul addresses the true believers and the faithful ones, and not the church as a whole.

But those who are living in a religious fantasy, and won't face the true facts of their own way of life, will include themselves with those to whom this letter is addressed.

But in a way, Paul is also addressing these other people as well, for he gives them the greeting of God's grace, which, if received, can change their lives into more than their fantasies.

What Paul is saying is that we are to live in peace with one another, and trust in God for our future; we are the true saints.

It's as Jesus said in His sermon on the mount: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." (Matthew 5:9)

And what is the name of such people?

They are called Christians!

It's not what we call ourselves that counts, for that could be a fantasy; but it's what our true life-change names us, by the grace of God, because of the promise.

And as we said before, we fantasize because we are not satisfied, and because we don't have that inner peace that comes from a life in Christ.

Note what Jesus said in Matthew 5:6:

6. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

So, if we are satisfied, there is no need to bargain for anything more, nor would any bargaining have helped us become satisfied.

With this thought in mind, let's return to Paul's letter to the Colossians (1:3-8) and listen to his next sentence which, by the way, takes six verses:

3. We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you,

4. since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints;

5. because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel,

6. which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth;

7. just as you learned it from Epaphras, our beloved fellow bond-servant, who is a faithful servant of Christ on our behalf,

8. and he also informed us of your love in the Spirit.

The fantasies we have in this world are changed into reality when they are based upon the gospel of Jesus Christ.

And it is then that we become satisfied.

But it doesn't mean that we no longer need to grow and mature in our new life in Christ, and it is with this encouragement that Paul begins his letter: that in the light and hope of heaven, they will learn from the rest of what he has to say to them, as should we.

And remember, what Paul is saying in no way involves bargaining.

This is something that Jacob had not yet learned as he fled from his brother Esau to the house of Laban.

Listen to the way he responds to God's promise to him of being the father of a great nation. (Genesis 28:18-22)

18. So Jacob rose early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up as a pillar, and poured oil on its top.

19. And he called the name of that place Bethel [which means House of God]; however, previously the name of the city had been Luz.

What Jacob is doing is being religious, but it has nothing to do with true belief and faith.

And from what he says next, we can be fairly sure he is not satisfied with his life or with the promise he has just heard from the Lord, for he really didn't receive it he just heard it.

20. Then Jacob made a vow, saying, "If God will be with me and will keep me on this journey that I take, and will give me food to eat and garments to wear,

21. and I return to my father's house in safety, then the Lord will be my God.

22. "And this stone, which I have set up as a pillar, will be God's house; and of all that Thou dost give me I will surely give a tenth to Thee."

God has already promised more; why bargain for less?

For God to fulfill His promise, He would have to provide everything Jacob is asking for, and even more.

But Jacob doesn't really believe; thus he bargains.

And God doesn't do these things for Jacob because of his bargaining ways, but because of His promise to Abraham, which the Lord passed on to Isaac and Jacob.

The Lord should be his and our God, no matter what He does, simply because He is God, and not because of what He gives us.

And we should give at least a tenth of our income back to God, not as a bargaining chip, but simply because we love Him and want His work to continue upon this earth until He returns.

There are many people who struggle with their relationship with God, just as Jacob did, and perhaps there is even one such person here with us today.

To those who struggle and are not satisfied, I give these words of encouragement with a prayer that they hear and believe as did those in Colossae, and trust in the Lord's promises; for what will be given to us is far more than we could ever bargain for or hope to have.

Pray as the psalmist prayed in Psalm 139:23-24:

23. Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me and know my anxious [or unsatisfied] thoughts;

24. And see if there be any hurtful way in me,
And lead me in the everlasting way.

There is nothing to bargain for here; there is only the sincere desire to have the Lord clean us up and set us upon His path.

But we must want Him to clean out those harmful things that are within us.

And we must truly want to walk in God's everlasting way.

If we do this, we will inherit the kingdom of God.

Amen.

Your Comments are welcome

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