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WE PICK AND CHOOSE WHICH OF THE WAYS OF GOD WE WISH TO FOLLOW

A SERMON DELIVERED AT

THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS

5 OCTOBER 1997

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

Mark 10:1-16
Romans 14:19
1 Corinthians 6:12 10:23
2 Corinthians 3:5-6

Today, we are going to talk some more about human nature, and particularly the way it's expressed among those who believe in God.

For in our human nature, we pick and choose which of the ways of God we wish to follow.

We are inconsistent in our faith; for sometimes we follow God's intent, and other times we follow the letter of the Law, and still other times we follow neither.

And since we are a family of God's children, we all are effected by the lifestyle and actions of each other, whether for the good or bad.

Let's take a look at the Hebrew way of looking at the intent of God, verses the letter of the Law.

We are in the midst of the Jewish high holy days.

Rush Hashanah, the Jewish New Year was celebrated this past Thursday.

It's a day to thank God for all He has created, both physically and spiritually.

It is a day to say, "Happy Birthday, Earth, for you are another year older."

Would we consider taking away our children's toys throughout the year, and not giving them anything on their birthday, but only saying, "Happy Birthday"?

Of course we wouldn't, but this is exactly what we do to the earth.

We strip her of her "clothing", pull out her "hair", punch holes in her and let her bleed, cover her with polluted air and water, and expect her to continue to give us presents, even on her birthday.

This coming Saturday is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, a day of total fasting when the people are to reflect upon who they really are before God, and thus, a day to confess their sins.

There is something very interesting about part of their ritual celebration.

They have prepared a list of all our sins, somewhat by category, one for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and they confess them in unison, even if the individuals haven't committed all of these sins on the list, for collectively they acknowledge that they are responsible for each other's actions.

And this is the way we all should be.

Let's now take a look at what Jesus teaches us, as recorded in Mark 10: 1-16.

1. And rising up, He *went from there to the region of Judea, and beyond the Jordan; and crowds *gathered around Him again, and, according to His custom, He once more began to teach them.

2.  And some Pharisees came up to Him, testing Him, and began to question Him whether it was lawful for a man to divorce a wife.

These Pharisees knew how Jesus was teaching the people, and they were trying to make Him sound contradictory to the people, and even as a law breaker, for they tested him according to the Letter of the Law.

But listen carefully to how Jesus explains how the intent of God is greater than any printed or established Law, even if given from God Himself, for we fail to understand why we received the Law in the first place.

3.  And He answered and said to them, "What did Moses command you?"

4.  And they said, "Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away."

What they are doing is picking and choosing what they want to follow, that they can continue to live as they wish to live.

5.  But Jesus said to them, "Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment.

6.  "But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female.

7.  "For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother,

8.  and the two shall become one flesh; consequently they are no longer two, but one flesh.

9.  "What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate."

Because of the collective hardness of heart of the people, there is, and was, divorce.

But that never was the intent of God.

God only gave them a concession, because of their hardness of heart; a concession, in the hope that one day they would come to their senses and once again return whole-heartedly back to Him, and fulfill His true intent for them.

But even the disciples didn't fully understand this.

10. And in the house the disciples began questioning Him about this again.

11. And He *said to them, "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her;

12. and if she herself divorces her husband and marries another man, she is committing adultery."

As a society we don't want to consider this as the way we should live.

We're this way, because we fail to fully love God or each other.

It's also the example we set for our children, which is something else we need to understand.

There should be nothing that we do, that is inappropriate for our children to be a part of, with the exception of certain personal and relationship activities such as bathing and those intimate activities between a husband and wife.

Listen to what Jesus tells us in relation to this.

13.  And they were bringing children to Him so that He might touch them; and the disciples rebuked them.

Even the disciples saw their relationship to Jesus as an exclusive adult activity, something that Jesus quickly corrects.

14.  But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, "Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.

The kingdom of God is for such as these?

Yes, it's for those who come forth in innocence.

15.  "Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it at all."

16.  And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands upon them.

These are examples of the true intent of God.

Now let's take a look at a few things that Paul says about intent verses the letter of the Law.

Let's begin by looking at our preparation verses for this morning, 2 Corinthians 3:5-6.

5.  Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God,

6.  who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

The letter of the Law points out our sins, and brings us to death in them.

But the Spirit of God brings us life through the saving grace given through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The first intent of God is that we love so unconditionally that we would never sin.

The second intent of God is that when we do sin, that we would truly repent and seek His forgiveness, and the forgiveness of any others we have sinned against.

And concerning food and immorality, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:12, speaking about himself as an example,

12.  All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.

And in 10:23 he expresses this for all of us.

23.  All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.

And in Romans 14:19 he says,

19.  So then let us pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.

This is an expression of love.

We more easily see the way our actions, according to the Law, effect one another, but we less clearly see how we effect each other spiritually.

We effect each other most profoundly when we fail to love.

And it is in this love that I'm reminding us all about the intent of God verses the letter of the Law.

To me, one of the greatest practical examples of this, and the one that 99% of the people don't want to listen too, is God's intent about eating animals.

From the beginning we were not to eat them, but because of our hardness of heart, we were granted a concession to eat animals; thus, today it's lawful, but not profitable.

We know that our factory farming operations are polluting our ground and waterways.

We know that our glut for flesh is the main reason for the destruction of our rain forests.

We know that the cause of many of our cancers, and almost all of our heart problems come from the eating of animals, yet we still continue to eat them.

I really don't think, even after 10 years of being with you, how much it hurts Mary and Me when we see you becoming sick because of what you eat.

We love you and want you to have all the good things in life that God has given you.

We don't want you to get sick and die.

We want you to live until the day that God decides to bring you home.

Love God!

Love His intent!

Love each other!

Amen.

Your Comments are welcome

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