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WHO IS WORTHY?

A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
American Baptist - United Methodist

30 APRIL 1995

By Frank L. Hoffman, Jr.

Scriptural References:

Acts 9:1-22
1 Corinthians 15:6-10
Revelation 5:1-14

Who is worthy to come before the presence of God?

And who is worthy to open the books of God?

Well, I know I'm not, and I don't think any of you really consider yourselves worthy either.

For the only One who is worthy is Jesus Christ, who is not only the Son, but one with God.

So, in reality, only God Himself is worthy.

But by His grace, He allows others to become worthy in many other ways, including being with Him in heaven forever and ever.

Let's begin our understanding of worthiness by looking at Paul's conversion, as recorded in Acts 9:1-22.

1. Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest,

2. and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.

Where is there any worthiness?

Where is there any love?

All that is evidenced, is that Saul (Paul) is very zealous for the Law and Hebrew tradition, but at this time there seems to be no love.

But God's grace can overcome even this, if we are willing.

3. And it came about that as he journeyed, he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him;

4. and he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?"

5. And he said, "Who art Thou, Lord?" And He said, "I am Jesus whom you are persecuting,

6. but rise, and enter the city, and it shall be told you what you must do."

7. And the men who traveled with him stood speechless, hearing the voice, but seeing no one.

8. And Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; and leading him by the hand, they brought him into Damascus.

9. And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

Jesus had the power to destroy Paul, but He didn't.

If we seek to destroy, we do not show love.

Destruction is Godís last choice, and He uses it only when people absolutely refuse to listen to Him.

Even though Saul personally persecuted Jesus, He simply tells Saul what he is to do.

There were no threats.

There was only love.

And, it is obvious that Paul was willing to listen to God's voice, and message.

10. Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and the Lord said to him in a vision, "Ananias." And he said, "Behold, here am I, Lord."

11. And the Lord said to him, "Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying,

12. and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him, so that he might regain his sight."

13. But Ananias answered, "Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he did to Thy saints at Jerusalem;

14. and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call upon Thy name."

We can well understand the apprehension of Ananias, but God sees the intent of the heart, even if Ananias doesn't.

And God wants Paul to understand that his healing is coming through a man whom Paul came to persecute, but whom God considers worthy.

So God encourages Ananias.

15. But the Lord said to him, "Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel;

16. for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name's sake."

17. And Ananias departed and entered the house, and after laying his hands on him said, "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road by which you were coming, has sent me so that you may regain your sight, and be filled with the Holy Spirit."

Ananias listened to what God told him, even to the point of calling Saul, "Brother."

So often we fail to achieve all that God has for us, for we fail to follow through in the things God desires us to do.

If by His grace, God considers us worthy, why do we doubt? Why do we hold back? Why do we limit the things God wants us to do?

Look at what happened to Paul.

18. And immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he regained his sight, and he arose and was baptized;

19. and he took food and was strengthened.

Now for several days he was with the disciples who were at Damascus,

20. and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, "He is the Son of God."

21. And all those hearing him continued to be amazed, and were saying, "Is this not he who in Jerusalem destroyed those who called on this name, and who had come here for the purpose of bringing them bound before the chief priests?"

22. But Saul kept increasing in strength and confounding the Jews who lived at Damascus by proving that this Jesus is the Christ.

Now, worthiness must be looked at in two ways: that which is truly worthy in itself, and that which is made worthy by God's grace.

Concerning his own worthiness, listen to what Paul wrote to the Corinthians in his first epistle (1 Corinthians 15:6-10).

6. After that [the resurrection] He [Jesus Christ] appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep;

7. then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles;

8. and last of all, as it were to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.

9. For I am the least of the apostles, who am not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

10. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.

And we, too, are what we are by the grace of God, if we believe; but our worthiness is based upon our willingness to follow through with the task set before us.

But no matter how strong our faith or how much we do the things God desires us to do, there is still a vast difference between our worthiness and Jesus Christ's.

Let's take a look at what John wrote about this in Revelation 5:1-14.

1. And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a book written inside and on the back, sealed up with seven seals.

2. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, "Who is worthy to open the book and to break its seals?"

3. And no one in heaven, or on the earth, or under the earth, was able to open the book, or to look into it.

No one was found worthy, not even among the angels, or among the saints of heaven.

4. And I began to weep greatly, because no one was found worthy to open the book, or to look into it;

5. and one of the elders said to me, "Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals."

6. And I saw between the throne (with the four living creatures [animals]) and the elders a Lamb standing, as if slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth.

Remember that we are speaking spiritually, and that this is a spiritual description of Jesus.

Likewise, remember that He is being seen in the form of an innocent animal who was worthy of being able to open the seals and book.

This imagery is one of true innocence.

7. And He came, and He took it out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne.

8. And when He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, having each one a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.

They are worshiping Jesus: not a physical lamb, but the Lamb of God who sacrificed Himself to save our souls.

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.

Do you hear what we are being told?

Jesus purchased with His blood peoples from all areas of society, and not just Jews and Christians.

Jesus died and rose again for every person, not just a chosen few.

But it still remains our own free choice to accept for ourselves the new life He offers us.

And the praising continues:

10. "And Thou hast made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth."

God has made all believers worthy enough to become priests.

Do you accept that calling in some area of ministry for your respective lives?

Your answer to that question should also answer the question in this sermonís title, "Who is worthy?"

11. And I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands,

12. saying with a loud voice, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing."

13. And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, "To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever."

Every created thing worshiped God.

This worship was not limited to human beings.  It included the whole of creation.

If God thinks they are worthy to worship Him, donít you think they are equally worthy of our love and protection?

14. And the four living creatures [animals] kept saying, "Amen." And the elders fell down and worshiped.

And what more can we say, than Amen.

Amen.

Your Comments are welcome

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