Suggested Lectionary Texts
Isaiah 1:1, 10-20, Psalm 50:1-8, 22-23, Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16, Luke 12:32-40
Isaiah 1:1, 10-20
1 The vision of Isaiah son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.
10 Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom! Listen to the teaching of our God, you people of Gomorrah! 11 What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. 12 When you come to appear before me, who asked this from your hand? Trample my courts no more; 13 bringing offerings is futile; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and sabbath and calling of convocation– I cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity. 14 Your new moons and your appointed festivals my soul hates; they have become a burden to me, I am weary of bearing them. 15 When you stretch out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. 16 Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, 17 learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow. 18 Come now, let us argue it out, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be like snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. 19 If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; 20 but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.
32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.35 “Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; 36 be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. 37 Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. 38 If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves. 39 “But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. 40 You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”
For a moment, we are going to peak in on a conversation between two friends: a fly on the wall
Joy: Let’s see……my check to help the mission team is ready. The boxes of school kits for the kids are almost packed. And oh, the knitted prayer shawls are being gathered to be mailed out. Look at what we have been able to do!
Ego: You’ve got to be kidding! You are spending all your time, not to mention your money, on this stuff. When do you have any time for yourself?
Joy: Well, actually….I love doing these things. I know that right now I am unable to go to help with the mission trip, but at least I can give some funds to help the mission team. Our committee at church has had a wonderful time gathering the school supplies for the children. Most of us have grown children and grandchildren and we would like to find ways to help others as well as our own. And I found myself thinking of all those volunteers who have helped in ravaged places. How hard they have worked and our prayers have been with them as well as with the people they have served. Each stitch for me is a prayer of gratitude for their strength and energy. Although I cannot do the work they are doing, I can support them with love and the gift of a shawl.
Ego: Yeah, but what’s in it for you?
Joy: Well, if you are talking about reward or recognition, that doesn’t matter. All that matters is the joy of helping in whatever way I can.
Ego: You are ridiculous! Everybody wants something. Don’t you want something from all of this?
Joy: No. I’ve already got what I want. Peace and Joy.
Ego: Oh brother……another do-gooder! Will you people never learn that it’s everyone for themselves?
Joy: I think you are mistaken. It should be that it is everyone for each other, in justice, peace, mercy, hope and love. That’s what life should be all about. Not gathering in for our own comfort or pride, but giving for the joy and love of God.
Ego: Doesn’t make sense to me. You just give and give. You aren’t getting paid or anything.
Joy: The reward, or payment as you call it, is in the joy of helping.
Ego: Well, you seem happy enough. But I’m not sure that I can do this.
Joy: When you are ready, you will be able to do this. Meanwhile, could you help me load up this last box of school supplies?
Ephesians 6:6-7 6 Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. 7 Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people.
- #1 Serving the Lord is a joyful thing to do.
- “Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into His presence with singing!” Psalm 100:2
- #2 Wholehearted obedience can make your heart glad.
- “And if you will indeed obey my commandments that I command you today, to love the LORD your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul…” Deuteronomy 11:13
- #3 Remain steadfast in your obedient service.
- “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:58
- #4 Remember that everything you do serves God.
- “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” Colossians 3:23-24
- #5 Your service is a sacrifice of praise.
- “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Romans 12:1
- #6 We are appointed to serve God by Jesus Christ.
- “I thank Him Who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because He judged me faithful, appointing me to His service.”
1 Timothy 1:12
- #7 God is the source of our strength
- “I can do all things through Him Who strengthens me.” Phil. 4:13
I could go on and on . . .
Paul devotes much time in his letters teaching his followers and us about how and why we serve God. He focuses on why we must serve out of joy, not out of obligation. In my opening scenario, Joy’s service was an extension of the love that God shared with her. While Ego asked, “What’s in it for me?” Do you remember Joy’s response? PEACE and JOY
Serving God comes with a reward. God offers us grace! Living the way that professes praise to God means we are partakers of the blessing to Abraham. Almighty God made some wonderful promises to Abraham and to his descendants. Not only that, but the Lord promised that in Abraham ALL the families of the earth would be blessed! The descendants of Abraham – the inheritors of the promises God made to him – are not only his physical descendants, but his spiritual descendants also. The fulfillments of God’s promises to Abraham were contingent on his faith; not merely on his works.
This blessing comes to us through faith in Jesus Christ, Abraham’s Seed. The Old Covenant believers were blessed and counted righteous as they looked forward to Jesus’ coming and the New Covenant believers are blessed and made righteous as they believe and trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ on Calvary! The only basis we have to inherit these promises, ourselves, is our faith in God’s word! Abraham’s blessings are ours! Paul knew this also. He said, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23 NRSV)
Serving God comes with an eternal hope of happiness and Joy. Therefore, we must strive to follow Christ at all times.
There is a choice put before us by God. To choose whether to serve him or to continue in the ways of unrighteousness. The end of sinfulness is destruction, while the reward of being faithful to Christ is eternal life.
Sure, we all want a life filled with happiness and that is void of challenges. A land that has no more sorrow or pain. A land where sickness is destroyed. We want a world where there are no murderers. This is promised to all who choose to serve God.
The ways of God are good, not evil. If you associate with evil, then you’ve not known God. To partake of God’s reward of serving him, we must choose him and avoid things of this world.
Abraham was successful and blessed all of his days because, (Romans 4:20-21 NRSV)
20 No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.
Absolutely nothing prevented Abraham from experiencing God’s blessings and promises because he chose to believe God’s word and not what he could see or feel! God will bless you the same way!
16 For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us). Romans 4:16 NRSV
Now, are we ready to accept God’s blessings and submit ourselves to God?
This acceptance signals that we have taken a bold step to step out in faith. Through our faith, we should repent of our old ways and cling to the things of the spirit – love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and humility.
If you have any doubt about your qualifications to inherit the promises made to Abraham, meditate on these scriptures I shared this morning, allow faith to rise in your heart, and go ahead and walk in the blessings that are yours. Abraham’s promises are ours! Believe God’s word to you and walk in His blessings!