God's Work in Progress
HW in HI
I hear everything went pretty well in my absence. Except that last week Reg decided to
preach on this weeks gospel. I spent some time wondering about that, whether maybe
this week I wanted to preach on next weeks gospel and so on. But I decided wed
run into a problem right around a week before Christmas when Id be on the gospel
where Mary brings forth a new born babe and wraps him in swaddling clothes. And then
theres Easter Id be preaching the resurrection on Palm Sunday.
The disciple Peter is again front and center this week. Peter is the guy that always
has something to say. He has a powerful response to Jesus when he is asked, Who do
you say that I am? Peter says that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God.
He doesnt equivocate, he just flat out says it. This is Peters viewpoint: he
has found God on earth. Somehow the unthinkable has happened, and here he is, right next
to the Messiah. And the messiah begins to explain that he will suffer actually that
he will undergo great suffering. Peter reacts as most of us might, he cries out,
No! I guess today we would say that he is in denial. How many of us have heard
of the approaching death of a loved one and cried out, No! This cant be
happening!? Probably most of would react just like that.
Jesus doesnt respond with great compassion. He says, basically, get out of my
way. The CEV puts it this way: Peter took Jesus aside and told him to stop talking
like that. He said, God would never let this happen to you, Lord! Jesus turned
to Peter and said, Satan, get away from me! Youre in my way because you think
like everyone else and not like God.
Time and again Scripture tells us that God doesnt think the way we think. The
psalmist quotes God as saying, Your ways are not my ways. What would it take
for us to think like God?
We have a model of Godly thinking in the life of Christ. Peter thought exactly what you
and i would have thought, No, dont hand yourself over to death and suffering.
Get out while the getting is good. Dont do it! And then we have the thinking
of God, the thinking of Jesus. I will stretch myself as far as possible for you, even to
the point of breaking. I will do this because you are worth it.
Those are the powerful thoughts of the Savior: you are worth it. I will save you. I
will sacrifice everything.
Sacrifice. Sacrifice doesnt come easily. I wonder: for whom are you willing to
sacrifice? For whom would I sacrifice? And just how much would we sacrifice? A few
dollars? A couple of hours? Our lives?
Jesus said, Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for
his friends. (John 15:13) Sometimes that is exactly the sacrifice that is called
for. At the dreadful tragic shooting in Columbine High School last Spring, one teacher
safely shepherded many of the students to safety, only to lose his own life to the bullets
of one of the gunmen. And so he laid down his life for his friends. Human thinking would
have been more along the lines of Saddam Hussein who used human beings as shields. But
that teacher was Dave Sanders, and he used his own body as a shield.
Before the shooting at Columbine, I would have said that it is highly unlikely that any
of us would be in a position to die for our faith. At least not in this country and not in
our lifetimes. Cassie Bernall was a junior at Columbine that day last Spring, and a
Christian. A gun-wielding student asked her if she believed. A crystal-clear moment
suspended in time. The Nicene Creed when it means something. Choose. If you say you
believe in God, you will likely not live. If you say you do not, perhaps you will. Cassie
said, Yes. The trigger was pulled, and she became a martyr as surely as any
Oswald Chambers wrote a devotional book called My Utmost for His Highest.
It was written right around the time this church was begun. He writes, If you say
you are sanctified, show it. The experience must be so genuine that it is shown in
life. A friend of mine says the same thing a little more graphically, A person
is no more a Christian because he or she sits in a pew in church, than that person is a
car because he or she sits in the garage.
We, each of us, joined the body of Christ completely the day we were baptized. Of
course, we were welcomed before that, but on that day we made a commitment. We said,
Yes! to Christ, who had already said yes to us. The Holy Spirit was present.
And our lives were meant to be changed forever. But were they? Are our lives holy? Would
someone know we are Christians by looking at our marriages, our parenting, our
friendships? How about the way we deal with or neighbors?
Yakov Smirnoff made the point. He is a Russian comedian, who emigrated to the United
States. He said he wasn't prepared for the incredible variety of instant products
available in American grocery stores. He says, "On my first shopping trip, I saw
powdered milk--you just add water, and you get milk. Then I saw powdered orange juice--you
just add water, and you get orange juice. And then I saw baby powder, and I thought to
myself, What a country!"
We assume that our lives will change instantly at baptism. Dramatically and without a
lot of work. Again, that is a little like baby powder giving us an instant baby. Which
would be pretty wonderful, if you think about it. For one thing, none of us would ever
need to go to church again. My job would be to do baptisms for people who need never come
to church because they are instantly transformed.
Of course, if that were the case, the world would be transformed, the kingdom would
have come, and you most certainly would not be sitting here this morning.
I want to encourage each of us to think of ourselves as Gods work in progress.
Becoming Christians who seek Gods word and do it. Spending more than a few minutes
each week, a few dollars each month but rather spending our lives on God. Becoming
Christians who love God so very much that, if it came right down to it, loving God so much
even we would give our lives.
The KJV, Mark 8:36 For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole
world, and lose his own soul?