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OH LORD, THAT MY WAYS MAY BE YOUR WAYS
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
7 AUGUST 1988
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
Preparation Verse: (John 14:6)
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.”
Oh Lord, that my ways may be your ways!
Is that your cry as well?
I pray it is!
For we have a holy and righteous God who desires us to be holy also.
Psalm 119 says:
1. How blessed are those whose way is blameless.
Who walk in the law of the Lord.
Oh Lord, I desire to be blameless and to walk in your ways at all times, but I never seem to be completely able to do it.
Perhaps you know the secret.
Can you tell me how to do it?
I want to, but I keep falling short of the mark.
Can you help me?
2. How blessed are those who observe His testimonies,
Who seek Him with all their heart.
3. They also do no unrighteousness;
They walk in His ways.
Oh how I wish I could do that, but I all too often fall short of the mark.
4. Thou hast ordained Thy precepts,
That we should keep them diligently.
Lord, I know all these things, and I truly want to do all these things.
I just seem to do the things that I don't want to do.
5. Oh that my ways may be established
To keep Thy statutes!
6. Then I shall not be ashamed
When I look upon all Thy commandments.
7. I shall give thanks to Thee with uprightness of heart,
When I learn Thy righteous judgments.
8. I shall keep Thy statutes;
Do not forsake me utterly!
For I cannot seem to live up to the standard that You have set for me.
Then what hope is there?
Our hope is in Jesus Christ!
And our hope is Jesus Christ!
In Him, and only Him, do we have forgiveness of sin, and the key of how to live in the ways of the Lord, as we are taught in Matthew 22:37-40, when He was being tested by a lawyer.
37 And He said to him, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.'
38 "This is the great and foremost commandment.
39 "The second is like it, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'
40 "On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets."
Actually, if we think about this in terms of fulfilling the Law, we really only need to focus upon the foremost commandment, for if we truly love the Lord our God with every part of our being, then we will also love the whole of His creation which He lovingly made.
If we love God in this way, we will naturally love our neighbor, as well as every other human being in the world, for we are all part of His creation.
Even if these other people do thing we don't like, we can still love them as the people that God desires us all to be.
Similarly, if we love God in this way, we will love every animal in the world, for God lovingly made them, too, and we will do everything in our power to peacefully protect them from harm, which includes not buying the products of their suffering.
And as we do all of these things, we find that we are also protecting the environment in which we all live.
Thus, the more we change our ways to live this way, the closer we come to living in the ways of the Lord.
Paul tells us about those same feelings and desire we spoke of earlier, for he had them too. Yet he never seemed to tire of encouraging others, as he did the Philippians in our New Testament lesson for this morning.
Paul wanted to do everything that God wanted him to do, yet he had to constantly battle with his flesh.
I also must battle with my flesh, and I suppose you are doing the same.
What God really desires is that we all battle with our flesh, and not give
into its desires all the time.
12. So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling;
13. for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
Here is the key to church growth.
If a congregation is holy to the Lord, both in and out of the church, then the community at large will see by their speech, dress, and actions that they set themselves apart from the things of the world.
Everyone in the world has the same or similar lusts to draw them away from the Lord.
Some people fall into one trap, and others fall into another.
Those who are in Christ Jesus war against their flesh.
Those who do not know Jesus Christ give into their fleshly desires; and because of their conscience, they try to excuse their actions by denying God.
For without God there is no real moral standard; and whether or not those who deny God will admit it, they know it, for God has made us that way.
People of the world want to indulge in things that they would not want other members of their families to do.
And by that statement, they are saying that they really want to know that there is a standard of morality, and they will go to a church that lives by what they preach.
But are we, as a family of Christ, ready to accept that challenge?
And if we are, will we do all things in the spirit of love and good cheer?
14. Do all things without grumbling or disputing;
15. that you may prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world,
16. holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may have cause to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain.
What Paul is saying here is that if the members of the church begin to stand on their own feet, in holiness, then they will appear to be as beacons of light to those who do not know Christ.
The morally liberal churches have been losing membership; the holiness churches have been growing.
Our communion service this morning speaks to us on this very point. If we are willing to truly try, Jesus Christ will sustain us.
Upon the Lord’s table is the bread. Jesus Christ is Himself the bread of life. He gave His life for us so that we might live.
In partaking of this joyful celebration of thanksgiving, we are to be renewed in the assurance of this great gift for us.
But it is the wine that speaks of the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ that truly sustains us.
No matter how often we come before the Lord in a truly repentant attitude, He will forgive us.
Thus we have the assurance to go on.
None of us are truly righteous.
None of us are holy.
But if we believe, God considers us justified as if we are truly righteous.
I'm not worthy to stand before you; but one day He called to this sinner, and told me of a need, and asked, “Who will go for Me?” And I said, “Here I am, Lord, send me!”
He took me up on it, too.
And I have a funny idea He has been calling to each of you as well.
Let me give you an example of what God wants us to do.
While I was at Drew University the past two weeks, I met a man named Joseph.
Joe is a pastor, as I am, but before this he was a very successful
entertainer with several hit records.
One day he finally heard the Lord's call. He could no longer do the things he was doing, and instead of signing a very large ten year contract, he walked away.
His call led him to the Philadelphia area; to a very poor, dirty, rundown section.
One day while walking through these streets, he had the absolute audacity to smile at the people and to say hello, even when they wouldn’t acknowledge it.
But he kept right on doing it, and they mocked him.
"Who does that crazy fool think he is?"
"How dare he come down here like this!"
But he kept right on doing it all the same. And after a while some of them
actually began to return his greeting.
Then do you know what this crazy, loving fool did?
He took a broom and went out onto that filthy sidewalk and began to sweep up
the dirt. He even cleaned the gutter.
And they mocked him all the more.
"Look at that crazy fool. Look what he's doing now. He has to be nuts."
But Joe kept on sweeping up the sidewalk and gutter.
And when someone would deliberately throw trash on the sidewalk, he would just go out and clean it up again.
He didn't grumble or complain; he just cleaned it up.
And they kept mocking him. "Look at that crazy fool!"
Then one day, one of those mockers was touched in their heart, and they began to join Joe, and cleaned up the dirt in front of their place.
And then another joined the band of the crazies. And then another, and another.
And do you know what happened?
The whole neighborhood became clean, and it is that way to this day.
Joe didn't have to sweep sidewalks. He’s a manager in a large health care facility; but he did it.
Joe was doing what Paul spoke of next:
17 But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all.
18 And you too, I urge you, rejoice in the same way and share your joy with me.
There are many people outside this church, and perhaps some who are members, who have lost sight of the Lord because of all of the dirt that surrounds them.
Perhaps if we helped clean away some of that dirt in our community, they could see clear enough to seek our Lord.
Perhaps they are only one little piece of trash away from salvation, and one of us is being called upon to remove it.
And perhaps that little piece of trash that is blinding them is in our own lives.
Each of us has to look at our self and see if some of that litter is lying around in our life, and if it is, we must confess it to the Lord before we come to His table.
And if each of us further resolves to do this trash-cleaning every day, we will see this body growing in both strength and numbers.