Sermon for September 8, 2019

Readings: Jeremiah 18:1-11 • Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18 • Philemon 1:1-21 • Luke 14:25-33

This week’s theme is God created you for his glory. Jeremiah uses the illustration of a potter to show that we are clay in the hands of the master potter. God knows what he is doing: we can trust him. The Psalmist reminds us that God knows all our thoughts; he created us in the womb. We are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” Paul’s letter to Philemon is to ask Philemon to release Onesimus for the Lord’s service. “Perhaps this is the reason he was separated from you.” Luke reminds us that we cannot claim to be disciples if we don’t follow Jesus fully. Jesus will complete the work he has begun in us. With this affirmation, we can give up all and follow him.

Children’s church resources: https://sermons4kids.com/

He Knows You: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

Psalm 139:1-6(NRSV) Psalm 139:13-18(NRSV)

Introduction: Share a time when you thought you got away with something, but your parents knew what you had been up to. You might want to ask the members to share a humorous story about thinking they got away with something as a child. If you play Speaking of Life, you may want to use a different introductory story.

I recently heard the story about a mother of a preschooler who had baked chocolate chip cookies. She told him that he couldn’t have one until after dinner, and then she went off to work in the laundry room. When she came back, the little step stool he used to reach anything on the kitchen counter was sitting in front of the cupboard, and sure enough, one of the cookies was gone. The mother went to the boy, found him with crumbs sticking to his mouth, and asked him if he ate a cookie. He looked at her incredulously and said, “How did you know?”

We are often like that preschooler when we forget that our Creator knows us intimately: the good, the bad, and ugly. He knows when we are at our most loving best, and he sees us when we are at our most deceptive worst. Through it all, his commitment to us never wavers.

Psalm 139 is an interesting text to consider when reflecting about the omniscient nature of God. Let’s look at a couple of interesting ideas from this psalm:

O Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away. You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, you know it completely. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it. (Psalm 139:1-6 NRSV)

God is a personal God seeking a relationship with us.

The psalmist uses both first person pronouns (I/my) and second-person pronouns (you/your). This shows how the relationship between humanity and God flourishes when there is an open honesty: no hiding, no holding back. It does no good to try to hide, as the psalmist points out.

Illustration: You may want to share a story of when your child tried to hide from you but was in plain sight. Share the similarity between this and our attempt to hide from God.

We often act as if God is not aware of us. Many see Christians as people who act one way on Sunday, and another way the rest of the week—as if we are in God’s presence only when we are worshipping at church. Theologian Walter Brueggemann says that “the Psalms are prayers addressed to a known, named, identifiable You.” God is not some undefined force, but the Father, Son, and Spirit seeking a relationship with humanity. Twentieth-century Jewish philosopher Martin Buber offers this reflection on our ever-present God who is always seeking us:

Where I wander – You! Where I ponder – You! Only You, You again, always You! You! You! You!

God knows every part of us, and he wants us to know him.

The verb “know” occurs seven times in this passage (in verses 1, 2, 4, 6, 14, and twice in 23). This Hebrew word yada’ (as found in other parts of the Bible) can mean anything from simply recognizing someone to having an intimate sexual relationship. God knows us (Ps. 139: 1, 2, 4, 6), so knowing God’s unchanging and omniscient character is a key factor in establishing an intimate relationship. A popular Christian worship song by Tommy Walker is called “He Knows My Name,” and the lyrics agree with what Psalm 139 tells us: “He knows my name; he knows my every thought. He sees each tear that falls and hears me when I call.”

God cares about our human bodies and shows us that it is good to be human.

For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed. (Psalm 139:13-16 NRSV)

This passage shows us that our bodies are good. They are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” But what about those who don’t appear to be wonderfully made? It’s easy to think God made a mistake, or he wasn’t involved in the creation of someone born physically or mentally challenged. To believe this, we’d also have to believe God is not aware when we face a serious disease or physical challenge later in life. We’d have to second guess God and his plan for each one of us. We’d have to second guess his ability to work with us in every circumstance of life.

We don’t always know God’s plan, but if we think God is only involved in some cases, or in some people, we limit God and his ability to bring good and glory in all people. We don’t always know why we are created the way we are, but we can know that he who created us does know why. Further, we know that he is always there. As we were reminded in last week’s sermon, he never leaves us or forsakes us—regardless of the physical or mental limitations we may face.

God thinks human bodies are so good that the second Person of the Trinity, the Word, became flesh and took on a human body. He still has that human body today (Col. 2:9). We are encouraged to take care of the “temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 6:19-20).

God has us on his mind.

How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! I try to count them—they are more than the sand; I come to the end—I am still with you. (Psalm 139:17-18 NRSV)

How often do we try to figure God out, and fail? God, why did you allow this, why did you do that? Why didn’t you intervene? Why didn’t you heal? His thoughts and plans and dreams for us are far beyond what we can comprehend. But we can rest assured when it comes to the end of our lives, we find that he has always been with us.

Application:

We can rest in the truth that we are known intimately, and despite our failings, loved completely. Just like that preschooler who snitched a cookie before dinner, we are often surprised to read that our loving God knows everything about us. Even when we mess up, God is always on our side. He knows our thoughts and what we’re going to say before we say it (vv. 2-3).

Because we know God’s unchanging love and acceptance, we extend that same love and acceptance to others, even those who may seem different from or opposed to us.

We approach life recognizing the gift of grace we enjoy, and we are quick to extend that same grace to others, whether they “deserve” it or not. This grace will look different in every situation. Sometimes it means speaking the truth with love and kindness, and other times it means remaining silent. By resting in God’s love and committing ourselves to share that same love and grace, we constantly pray to understand how to respond in every situation. We no longer need to “win” or to “be right,” but we seek to show love and kindness in the best way possible.


Small Group Discussion Questions

From Speaking of Life and the sermon:

  • Have you ever thought you had gotten away with something, only to find out later your parents knew? Share the story (but keep it light and humorous—this is not a time of confession).
  • How does Psalm 139 inform our view of God? What does this say about God’s character?
  • If God knows “even before a word is on [our tongues],” why do we feel the need to hide our failings?
  • This psalm honors the human body, saying we “are fearfully and wonderfully made.” How can we use this understanding to encourage ourselves to take care of this “temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 6:19-20)?
  • How does understanding God’s total acceptance and love for us change the way we interact with others? What does that look like (in a practical sense) for our families, our work, and our church?

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