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LEARNING TO LOOK LIKE JESUS
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
26 FEBRUARY 1989
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
Joshua 22:1-6, 10-12
1 Corinthians 8:1-13
Preparation Verse: (Romans 12:1)
I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.
For the past five weeks we have been going through a series of lessons on
“Learning to See the True Intent of Man’s Heart" so that we would not be led
astray by the sweet-sounding words of some self-seeking individuals who are of
their father the devil.
Today, I would like all of us to take a real hard look at ourselves and see if we look like Jesus.
But if we cannot see Jesus, then it is time we quit playing church and begin learning how to look like Him.
And even more; for there are times in our lives, even when we look like Jesus, that we do things that are not understood by others as we intended them to be, and they believe that we have turned away from God or worse, that it is all right for them to turn away.
We just don't think of how our actions may hurt someone else, and we also forget about our love when we are the one hurt.
Such was the case with the two-and-a-half tribes of Israel when they departed for the east side of the Jordan River, a part of which we read this morning in our Old Testament lesson.
Turn with me now to chapter 22 of Joshua, and let's see what happened.
Israel has now been in the land of Canaan for five years, and they have conquered most of it; and the two-and-a-half tribes are about to depart for home. And as we look in at the scene before us, beginning at verse 1, we hear Joshua addressing them.
1. Then Joshua summoned the Reubenites and the Gadites and the half-tribe of
2. and said to them, "You have kept all that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, and have listened to my voice in all that I commanded you.
3. "You have not forsaken your brothers these many days to this day, but have kept the charge of the commandment of the Lord your God.
4. "And now the Lord your God has given rest to your brothers, as He spoke to them; therefore turn now and go to your tents, to the land of your possession, which Moses the servant of the Lord gave you beyond the Jordan.
They have been righteous in all that they were told to do, yet because they are like us, God and Joshua find it necessary to caution them.
5. "Only be careful to observe the commandment and the law which Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, to love the Lord your God and walk in all His ways and keep His commandments and hold fast to Him and serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul."
Three times in these five verses we have seen the expression "Moses the servant
of the Lord."
Why do you think Joshua is doing this?
It is to show by example how all of the Israelites are to live. They may not be able to do all that Moses did, but they can live as Moses lived.
We all should be servants of the Lord, and if that is truly the desire of our heart, we can.
Moses was a type of Christ, for he led his people away from their sinful surroundings to the promised land.
But Moses and Joshua are trying to show the people, including us, that there is even a greater home for them, if they will truly love the Lord their God and do all that He told them to do.
We can see into the fulfillment of this second promise, for we have Jesus.
But just as it was necessary to caution the two-and-a-half tribes, it is also necessary to caution us today, for we don't always live like Christians, and we do some very foolish things that cause God to grieve and others to mock the Gospel message we preach.
6. So Joshua blessed them and sent them away, and they went to their tents.
I am not a Moses, nor am I a Joshua; but nevertheless, I send you away with the
blessing of the Lord, so that you might walk with Him and not fall into the
traps of the enemy.
It is not my blessing that is given, but that of Almighty God; so that you can go into the world with the assurance of God's strength – that is if you receive the blessing.
What happens next?
Let's skip over the historical recap and see what happens, beginning at verse 10.
10. And when they came to the region of the Jordan which is in the land of
Canaan, the sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh
built an altar there by the Jordan, a large altar in appearance.
11. And the sons of Israel heard it said, "Behold, the sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh have built an altar at the frontier of the land of Canaan, in the region of the Jordan, on the side belonging to the sons of Israel."
12. And when the sons of Israel heard of it, the whole congregation of the sons of Israel gathered themselves at Shiloh, to go up against them in war.
What a sorry state of affairs. These tribes have been together for hundreds of
years; they have just finished a five year conquest together, and yet they seem
to have no memory of that.
Some of them did something that was wrong in appearance, and the others want to wage war against them; in fact, they no longer even refer to them as being part of the sons of Israel.
Church, we do the same thing to each other.
Don’t reach out in hate to someone you love, just because they have done something wrong in your eyes.
And if you are the one who has done something that troubles someone else, don't reject them utterly because they have come against you.
We don't need strife; we need to love each other. We need to reach out to each other in love and reconcile ourselves to each other according to God's word.
This really is all part of loving the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind, which includes loving the whole of God’s creation.
And if someone has hurt you, go to them in love and tell them so, and explain why.
Likewise, if someone comes to you in this manner, receive them and what they say in love, and resolve together to reconcile the differences.
By not doing this, we destroy friendships, marriages, families, and even churches.
If we have hurt someone, then resolve to restore what was destroyed.
And if we are offered restoration, receive it and the person who brings it.
Also, if you have left things in a destroyed state, don't go on a guilt trip; but rather, resolve in your heart not do so again and if possible try to rebuild what was destroyed.
There are times, beloved, that we cannot restore what was destroyed; but all things are possible with God, if we are willing to wait on Him.
Don't compound a past mistake; build upon it so that it will not happen again, and receive the joy of the Lord because of that heart desire.
And remember that this restoration extends to the whole of God’s creation: to every other human being, to all the other animals, and to the environment in which we live.
When we accept any form of killing or destruction, it is much easier to escalate it, which is what is happening with the tribes of Israel.
This is why Christ died for us; so that we could all repent of our past sins and have new life and hope in Him, and love each other.
The tribes of Israel worked out their differences in love, and went their respective ways.
In the 8th chapter of 1 Corinthians, Paul gives us a simple example of how we cause others to stumble and how we should live to prevent such a thing from happening.
We may not knowingly sacrifice or participate in sacrifices to idols as in this example, but the things we do have the same effect.
Note what Paul says:
1. Now concerning things sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies.
Do you hear what we are being told?
We have knowledge of what is right and what is wrong, and if that is where we stop, we become arrogant.
But in that knowledge, if we come forth in love, we can restore each other from sin.
2. If anyone supposes that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought
3. but if anyone loves God, he is known by Him.
4. Therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one.
5. For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords,
6. yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.
Who are we to destroy that which God has made?
And this includes every aspect of creation: humans, animals, and the environment.
If we are solidly in Christ, we should have knowledge of this.
7. However not all men have this knowledge; but some, being accustomed to the
idol until now, eat food as if it were sacrificed to an idol; and their
conscience being weak is defiled.
8. But food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat.
9. But take care lest this liberty of yours somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.
10. For if someone sees you, who have knowledge, dining in an idol's temple, will not his conscience, if he is weak, be strengthened to eat things sacrificed to idols?
11. For through your knowledge he who is weak is ruined, the brother for whose sake Christ died.
12. And thus, by sinning against the brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ.
13. Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, that I might not cause my brother to stumble.
The word of God tells us that all who are born again are the temple of God, yet
we do things to our body that destroy or weaken it: hardening our hearts and
souls to the suffering of other living beings, over-eating, smoking, drinking,
taking drugs, and other things that are not good for us.
For example, if there is someone who has a tendency toward alcoholism and we have a drink in front of them, they may think that it is all right to drink, and thus they may fall into sin.
As another example, you will never see us eat or wear any animal product, for we know that acquiescing to such things hardens our heart, which in turn separates us from God.
Before we go on, let us not forget the basic underlying problem in this whole discussion over meat (flesh).
If the people had followed God's original commandment to eat only plant foods as we are told in Genesis 1:29-30, there wouldn't have been any strife over food.
29. Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant
yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has
fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you;
30. and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so.
If we who are Christians act differently outside of church than we do inside, then those who are weak will do the same and fall into sin along with us.
This is most likely why Paul said that he would never eat meat again.
Or if we just hang out in bars and only drink soft drinks, a weak brother or sister in Christ may think it is all right to go to bars, and they will drink the hard stuff.
We do the same with our lusts; we fool ourselves into thinking that we can do something and that God will forgive us; but what do we do about the person who was led astray because of our sin or thoughtless act? How will that person receive forgiveness?
Christians, we are to be different once we are saved. There should be definite noticeable change in our life after we come to Christ; and if there isn't, are you sure of your salvation?
If we truly want to get rid of the sin in our lives and be assured of everlasting life, then we must seek a higher level of existence. We should not be satisfied with our present position in life; for what God has for us is better than what we now have, and we should be constantly reaching out for it.
God does have a better life for us all, and that is why Christ died for us, so that we would have a chance to reach that better life.
This isn't a game.
It's for real.
And all who play the game or reject the Lord's free offer of salvation are going to hell.
But God has eternal life in heaven for all who accept His free gift through their sincere repentance.
Resolve with me now to put away those things that make others stumble and harm us, and live as Christ did for our example.
And if something that someone did has hurt you, see through their problem, and reach out to Jesus and forgive those who trespass against you, as you want others to forgive you.
Salvation is important to us all, but it profits us little, if we don't live like it; for the evidence of salvation is a changed life.
There are three things that are evident in almost every born again believer:
They have a deep desire to read and study their Bible.
They have a noticeable life change, and no longer do the worldly things they previously did.
And lastly, they desire to associate with other Christians for mutual support.
And with all this there is something more. There will be true joy.
If we know the truth and are not living like this, then we are living a lie, leading others astray, and hurting many others in the process.
Jesus Christ died for each and every one of us, to free us from this sinful world, so that we might be in heaven with Him forever; and so often we just reject what He did for us, and even wipe our dirty feet on His clean garments.
It's time we stop.
It's time we change.
It's time we truly repent and live like it.
It's time we stop hurting each other.
It's time we truly love each other as Christ loves us.