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ANALYZING OUR TRUE ATTITUDE ABOUT DOING THE WILL OF GOD
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
30 SEPTEMBER 1990
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
Preparation Verse: (Ezekiel 36:27)
“And I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.”
Probably the best way for Christians to know if they are doing what God wants them to do, is to look at their inner attitude, as one looks at one’s self in a mirror.
But unlike mirrors made with glass and silver, which only reflect the outer image, we need a mirror that reflects our innermost feelings, attitudes and desires.
This mirror is the Holy Spirit.
But like the mirrors of glass, we, who also have the Holy Spirit within us, can see not only ourselves but the reflection of others.
Sometimes we make the mistake of only looking at others, and we fail to look at ourselves first. We become like the driver of a car who can’t wait for the light to change and honks their horn at the person in front of them just as the light changes.
Christians and Jews have been making this mistake ever since God set us apart.
Back in Moses' day, the Holy Spirit didn't come upon every believer as He does today.
He was selectively given to those who were doing the will of God.
Thus Moses requested that God lead the people by a physical sign that would set them apart from the rest of the world.
Remember that our true setting apart is in love. And unless the love of Christ is in us, we cannot share it.
Listen to how Moses reasons this with God in Exodus 33:12-16:
12. Then Moses said to the Lord, "See, Thou dost say to me, 'Bring up this people!' But Thou Thyself hast not let me know whom Thou wilt send with me. Moreover, Thou hast said, 'I have known you by name, and you have also found favor in My sight.'
13. "Now therefore, I pray Thee, if I have found favor in Thy sight, let me know Thy ways, that I may know Thee, so that I may find favor in Thy sight. Consider too, that this nation is Thy people."
Sometimes, we who know God are afraid to ask Him something, or to confirm what He wants us to do, or to help us make a better impression before others through our love.
Sometimes we just give up too soon and begin “honking.” That isn't what God wants.
God wants us to follow through. Thus He answers Moses in the following way:
14. And He said, "My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest."
God's presence here with us is the Holy Spirit.
And without the Holy Spirit with us, we can get into trouble.
Moses knew this. Thus, he had the boldness to respond as we see in the next two verses:
15. Then he said to Him, "If Thy presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here.
16. "For how then can it be known that I have found favor in Thy sight, I and Thy people? Is it not by Thy going with us, so that we, I and Thy people, may be distinguished from all the other people who are upon the face of the earth?"
What do you think about Christians today?
Are we distinguishable from all of the other peoples of the earth?
Or, are we so much like the rest of the world that the world can't tell us apart?
I believe, in general, we are very much like the world.
And our problem is that we have gone forth with the wrong attitude, and without the Holy Spirit.
In the process, we have made the church more of a social club than a house of worship in which holiness and love must come first.
Please turn in your Bibles to Matthew 20:1-16, and listen to how Jesus, in a parable, expresses the problem with our attitude:
1. "For the Kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.
2. "And when he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius for the day, he sent them into his vineyard.
3. "And he went out about the third hour [9:00 AM] and saw others standing idle in the market place;
4. and to those he said, 'You too go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.' And so they went.
5. "Again he went out about the sixth [12:00 noon] and the ninth hour [3:00 PM], and did the same thing.
6. "And about the eleventh hour [5:00 PM] he went out, and found others standing; and he said to them, 'Why have you been standing here idle all day long?'
7. "They said to him, 'Because no one hired us.' He said to them, 'You too go into the vineyard.'
God can call us at any time of the day, or even at night, to do a job for Him.
When we get called, do we respond?
Did you notice that every one of these laborers went out into the vineyard?
Did you also notice the difference between the first ones hired and the others he hired during the day?
With the first ones, he had to bargain with them over their pay, but the rest just trusted him for a pay that was right.
I guess the first thing each of us has to decide in our own heart is, "Am I willing to go into God’s vineyard and work?"
The second thing we have to ask ourselves is, "What do I expect to get paid for my efforts?"
I fear that there are some around who expect to get paid without doing anything.
How do you think the landowner paid his workers? Let's see as we continue with our reading at verse 8:
8. "And when evening had come, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, 'Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last group to the first.'
9. "And when those hired about the eleventh hour [5:00 PM] came, each one received a denarius.
10. "And when those hired first came, they thought that they would receive more; and they also received each one a denarius.
Do you think that this was fair for the landowner to do?
How would you feel, if you were one of these laborers?
Would you have answered as they did?
11. "And when they received it, they grumbled at the land-owner,
12. saying, 'These last men have worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the scorching heat of the day.'
13. "But he answered and said to one of them, 'Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius?
14. 'Take what is yours and go your way, but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you.
15. 'Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?'
16. "Thus the last shall be first, and the first last."
Our attitude, and our frame of reference in analyzing this situation and our own relationship with the Lord, is one of having the Lord in our presence,
This parable is an example of our salvation.
We may have been in church all of our lives, doing the work of the church. Then, along comes a new believer and God makes that person equal to you.
Do you rejoice at their salvation?
Or, are you upset that you have not been given two salvations, when all you need or could ever use is one?
The Jews had this latter problem. They were jealous that salvation had come to the common people and the Gentiles.
There are also families like this, where only one spouse is a believer and they want something over their spouse. Thus they act in a manner that will drive them away from the Lord. True love will overcome this problem.
Then there is the case of the lifelong churchgoer who has never committed his/her life to the Lord, and they become jealous of those who come to do the will of their Father who is in heaven. True love will overcome this, also.
Our reward is the same, if our attitude is the same – either for good or for evil, either for much or for little, or for nothing at all.
Remember also, that we are talking about true love in churches and Christians, a love that extends to the whole of God's creation.
True love is not jealous and does no harm to our fellow human beings, by denying them any of the things that God desires them to have, no matter who they are.
Likewise, true love would never bring any harm upon another animal, whom God lovingly created, as He did us, nor would true love turn a blind eye to the suffering inflicted by others, or the products of such suffering.
And true love will always seek to preserve and protect the earth for the benefit of all humans and other animals.
Let's look at another example.
God called the prophet Haggai to speak to the sons of Israel after they had returned from captivity in Babylon, so that they might be encouraged to serve the Lord their God with oneness of mind.
Let's take a look at this passage. Please turn to Haggai, chapter 1:
1. In the second year of Darius the king, on the first day of the sixth month, the word of the Lord came by the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest saying,
2. "Thus says the Lord of hosts, 'This people says, "The time has come, even the time for the house of the Lord to be rebuilt." ' ''
3. Then the word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet saying,
4. "Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses while this house lies desolate?''
Let's stop here for a moment and consider something.
Is not our house of God becoming desolate?
Are we so much like the Israelites, who just mourn over the desolation and do nothing about it, that we also are ineffective in doing the Lord's work?
Are our members so concerned over what the church will do for them, or pay them, that they are unwilling to work to correct our problems, both spiritual and physical?
Listen to how God answers:
5. Now therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts, "Consider your ways!
6. "You have sown much, but harvested little; you eat, but there is not enough to be satisfied; you drink, but there is not enough to become drunk; you put on clothing, but no one is warm enough; and he who earns, earns wages to put into a purse with holes."
Could the Lord be speaking to us today, as well as to Israel 2,500 years ago?
I believe He is.
And I have seriously been considering my own ways; for this ministry, in this church, has done much work but has little to show for it, particularly when one considers the size of the field we have been planting in; and this year our harvest has been even less than last year.
Listen again to the word of God, and see if we can apply what Haggai is
7. Thus says the Lord of hosts, "Consider your ways!
8. "Go up to the mountains, bring wood and rebuild the temple, that I may be pleased with it and be glorified," says the Lord.
Because we have so much, we have become lazy Christians, just as the Israelites did.
While they were in captivity in Babylon, they desired their freedom and made all kinds of promises to God.
But once they got their freedom, they forgot about their vows and sought only after their own desires.
Now God is telling us that the easy days are over, and it's time we get back to work for Him.
We might wonder why things are not working the way we would like them to, not only here but all over the world.
Haggai tells us why, as we continue at verse 9:
9. "You look for much, but behold, it comes to little; when you bring it home, I blow it away. Why?" declares the Lord of hosts, "Because of My house which lies desolate, while each of you runs to his own house.
10. "Therefore, because of you the sky has withheld its dew, and the earth has withheld its produce.
11. "And I called for a drought on the land, on the mountains, on the grain, on the new wine, on the oil, on what the ground produces, on men, on cattle, and on all the labor of your hands."
Maybe we have not been called upon to build a physical temple, but most assuredly we have been called upon to build a spiritual temple.
And we don't have to look very far from us to see the effects of the weather and the famine in the world.
God is calling upon us to make a stand, just as we talked about last week.
What do you think the Israelites did when they heard this word from Haggai? Let's see:
12. Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the Lord their God and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the Lord their God had sent him. And the people showed reverence for the Lord.
13. Then Haggai, the messenger of the Lord, spoke by the commission of the Lord to the people saying, '' 'I am with you,' declares the Lord."
14. So the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and worked on the house of the Lord of hosts, their God,
15. on the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month in the second year of Darius the king.
Well, we who are in church have been stirred-up to some extent, or we would not be here; but we require even more stirring of our spirit.
But what about the others who are not here? Can each of us accept the call that the Lord placed on Haggai, and spread the word to those who are not here, so that they too might be stirred?
This stirring comes from the Holy Spirit, as the wind stirs things in its path.
But we are the ones who have to make the choice to accept this stirring; we can't do it on our own.
Reach out to God as you have never reached out before.
Ask Him to come into your life and stir you up to do the work He has placed before you.
And when you do this, everything else in your life will begin to improve as well, for that is what the Lord promises us.
This is all part of God's love, and we are to share it.
Have you analyzed your own true attitude about doing the work of the Lord?
Is it based in true and perfect love?
I pray so…and that it will be with the Lord.