Sermon for August 30, 2020

Video Transcript

Speaking of Life 2040 | Stopping the Spin Heber Ticas The saying “the truth lies somewhere in the middle” is often used to explain how we each bring our own perspective about reality to any situation. If you have kids, you know this. A fight starts between siblings, and each one says, “He started it” or “She started it.” As a parent you know the truth is somewhere in the middle of those accusations. Our interpretation of reality is partially defined by our unique life experiences and our temperament, and we find this is also true in how we think about our Christian lives. We know that being human has its highs and lows. This is the reality of all of humanity and the Bible shares this reality. The Psalms, for example, are filled with hope and joy and encouragement, but they also sometimes have lots of anger and vengefulness. This is part of our human experience. These highs and lows can affect how we see God. If we look at Psalm 105, we can see the psalmist is giving God glory for wonderful blessings poured out on the nation of Israel, but then the psalmist puts his own spin on Israel’s history: The Lord made his people very fruitful; he made them too numerous for their foes, whose hearts he turned to hate his people, to conspire against his servants. Psalm 105:24-25 Notice how the psalmist blames God for the anger of the Israelites’ foes, saying “whose hearts he turned to hate his people.” Does a God of love really want people to hate each other? We can see that in passages like this one, the writer is playing on the human drama of the situation rather than speaking literally about how God behaves.  If we think about this in human terms, we parents can say that we would much prefer our children get along rather than fight. Noticing our very human tendency to put our own spin on what we experience can help us when we start telling ourselves unhelpful and untrue stories about God. For example, when we’re faced with a job loss or a financial setback, do we think we’re being punished by God? If we face a serious illness, do we assume that we have sinned in some way, and this illness is our payback? Noticing our tendency to interpret events as if God is against us can help us stop and gain perspective. We can consider what we know about God’s character, which is based on grace, and goodness. We can remember the kindness and love of Jesus in his dealings with people, and how Jesus said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9, NIV). We can think about the times that we felt God’s nearness and blessing, recalling those memories in all their detail. Positive actions like these can help us overcome the negative spin we sometimes put on difficult events in our lives. Being human is hard, and challenges often crop up in our lives. Recognizing our tendency to blame God or others when we’re hurting can help us make different choices. We can “stop the spin” by remembering God’s love and kindness to us in our past. Let us recognize and rest in the truth about God’s love for us today. I’m Heber Ticas, Speaking of Life.

Psalm 105:1-6, 23-26, 45 • Exodus. 3:1-15 • Romans 12:9-21 • Matthew 16:21-28

*The theme for this week is “the blessing of following.” In Exodus 3, we read the story of Moses and the burning bush, and we learn that God always equips us for any leadership role we’re given. Psalm 105 reminds us to seek the Lord and glory in his name, to give thanks and to praise. In Matthew 16, Jesus reminds Peter and the disciples to trust him, deny ourselves and follow him. The sermon outline, titled “True Discipleship: Loving as Jesus Loves” discusses the attributes of disciples of Jesus.

True Discipleship – Loving as Jesus Loves

Romans 12:9-21 NRSV

Ask the members to give a practical characteristic or example of what a “true disciple of Jesus” might be like. Then ask the same about someone “loving as Jesus loves.” Note the similarity in answers.

You may have noticed an emphasis in Equipper articles, GCI Update letters and RCL sermons on the new commandment Jesus gave. Most are familiar with John 13:35, which reminds us that disciples are identified by our love for one another. verse 14 describes this love:

I give you a new commandment that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you should also love one another. (John 13:34 NRSV)

So how are we to love one another as Jesus loves us? There are several passages in the Bible describing practical ways Jesus loves; today we will look at one passage in Romans. Let’s read it:

Read Romans 12:9-21 NRSV.

Let’s take this passage one thought at a time and share how Jesus loved us and how we can love others in a like manner.

Let’s take this passage one thought at a time and share how Jesus loved us and how we can love others in a like manner.

A suggestion is to either open this up for discussion, or give examples for these statements. You most likely won’t get through all of them, so encourage the members to come up with examples throughout the week and share at discipleship class or small group. After each statement ask, how did Jesus do this? What is a practical application today?

    • Let love be genuine
    • Hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good
    • Love one another with mutual affection
    • Outdo one another in showing honor
    • Do not lag in zeal
    • Be ardent in spirit
    • Serve the Lord
    • Rejoice in hope
    • Be patient in suffering
    • Persevere in prayer
    • Contribute to the needs of the saints
    • Extend hospitality to strangers
    • Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them
    • Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep
    • Live in harmony with one another
    • Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly
    • Do not claim to be wiser than you are
    • Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all
    • If it is possible, so far as depends on you, live peaceably with all
    • Never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mind, I will repay, says the Lord.”
    • If your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning colas on their heads
    • Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good

It’s a tall order to be a disciple of Christ. There is a lot in the above list and it’s easy to focus more on our failures than our successes. Further, when we look at Romans 12 as a list of things we should not do, it’s easy to feel discouraged, because like Paul, we often find ourselves doing the things we do not want to do, and not doing the things we want to do. Discipleship is a life-long process of growing in grace and knowledge. It is loving others more today than we did last week. It is asking God to help us see others as he sees them, as his beloved. It is asking God to love with his love. It is asking God to make things plain for us.

So let’s simplify this passage and summarize these qualities—focusing on what we do rather than what we should not do.

  • A disciple is someone who follows Jesus and attempts to love as he loves:
  • A disciple is loving, kind, and authentic, honoring others whenever possible (vv. 9-10).
  • A disciple is passionate, hopeful, and willing to help and serve others, and when difficulties come, bears them gracefully through lots of prayer (vv. 11-13).
  • A disciple is empathetic, realizing how interconnected we all are as God’s children (vv. 14-16).
  • A disciple is peaceful, both within and without, and promotes peace even when wronged (vv. 17-20).
  • A disciple is an encouragement to be good and do good and believes that “being right” is much less of a priority (v. 21).

In other words, a disciple is someone who loves as Jesus loves, and is known to be a disciple of Jesus by his or her love for others.


Small Group Discussion Questions

From Speaking of Life: “Stopping the Spin”

  • Have you ever witnessed an event with a group of people, maybe a sports event or school event, and everyone had certain details they noticed that no one else did? Why do you think we perceive reality through such different lenses?
  • Have you ever considered that our individual views of God could be influenced by our personality or temperament and our experiences? How have you seen this in your life or in lives of others?

From the sermon: “True Discipleship—Loving as Jesus Loves

  • After considering the sermon examples of what makes a good disciple, can you share examples from your own life of people who illustrated some of these qualities of good discipleship and loving others as Jesus loves?
  • The sermon says a disciple understands how interconnected we all are. What does this mean to you? How does it affect the way you treat others?
  • What do you think about our tendency to want to be right rather than to be loving? How do you think this tendency can limit our effectiveness as leaders and disciples?

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