Gathered and Scattered
This week’s One Thing: Pray specifically that we can serve the world sacrificially as a gathered and scattered community.
This week we continue our Red Letters sermon series from Matthew 5-7. This is Jesus’ longest recorded sermon in the New Testament. We encourage you to read Matthew 5-7 through at least once each week during our series. Ask God to show you ways you can reflect His heart for the world during this new season. In your time with the Lord and with your Growth Group, ask and answer these questions to help guide you in responding to Jesus’ message from Matthew 5-7.
Have you ever wondered how God will use the broken places in your life to accomplish His purposes? Moses stands out as one who experienced many instances of God showing up to rescue and redeem the messy parts of his life. At birth, Moses’ life was spared when many Hebrew babies were killed. He grew up under the shadow and in the care of Pharaoh’s court. In a fit of rage, believing he was standing up for the righteousness of God, he murdered an Egyptian. That murder began a 40 year season of living away from the comfort of Pharaoh’s court in the desert where he would find himself serving his father in law and spending lots of time alone in the wilderness. From this context, Moses recounts the faithfulness of God in Psalm 90. God doesn’t waste our experiences. He uses them to grow us and accomplish His purposes.
Today we start a new series in the Psalms. The Psalms provide a wonderful resource of inspiration and instruction for prayer and worship of God. Ezra collected the Psalms which were written over a millennium by a number of authors including David, Asaph, Korah, Solomon, Heman, Ethan and Moses. The Psalms are organized into 5 collections (1-41, 42-72, 73-89, 90-106, and 107-150). As we read the book of Psalms we see a variety of psalms including praise, lament, messianic, pilgrim, alphabetical, wisdom, and imprecatory prayers. The Psalms help us see the importance of God’s Word (Torah) and the hopeful expectation of God’s people for Messiah (Jesus).
Our world tells us that we can realize the desires of our heart if only if we work harder. We hear that we can overcome our shame, our guilt, and our fear by applying more and more effort earning favor with God. We regularly try to manage our sin and build a life of comfort. It is as if we can climb the mountain to God if we just try harder. In 1 John 4:1-6 we read a different message. John is clear that God’s love expressed through Jesus awakens us from spiritual death into a new life. Where once we could not achieve, now we can rest in the finished work of Jesus. The love of God in us is greater than anything the world has to offer. We can rest in Him.
Sacrificial love is the hallmark of Christian thought and behavior. To say that you know Jesus as your savior and to live in the darkness of hate is to give evidence that you are not walking in the light of Christ’s love. We know from 1 John 2 that the sacrifice of Jesus’ life is the covering that turns away the wrath of God toward our sin. We also read that in Jesus, we have an advocate with the Father. He doesn’t just simply cover our sin, but He sent His Spirit to live within us to cause us to desire more and more to keep His commandments. This faith in Christ leads us to love others with the same love that we have received from the Father. Our love for others authenticates the faith we have in Jesus.
Jesus provides a strong warning to those who wish to practice their godliness in front of others. The sincerity of practicing generosity, prayer, and fasting should have nothing to do with creating an impression on others. God is most concerned with your motive in practicing your Christian life. He rewards those who focus on pleasing Him without regard to others’ perception. The
challenge of these verses leaves us asking if our motives are pure as we seek to love God and neighbor.
Paul’s summary thoughts at the end of 2 Timothy include a lot of names. Wherever Paul was, he made friends and got to know the people in the community. Paul knew many people and many knew Paul. In his final letter to Pastor Timothy, those names represented people who had served with Paul, people who had deserted Paul, people who had encouraged Paul, people who had ministered with and to Paul for years. When we think of Mark we remember how Paul didn’t care much for Mark at one point in Acts but now we see they are trusted ministry partners in Kingdom work. When we think of Demas we remember that at one time he was a trusted team mate and now we see the love of the world has captured his attention and he left Paul. Some of the names listed in 2 Timothy 4 are familiar. Some are only listed here. Each name represents a person whom Paul cared enough about to share the story of Jesus’ life given for them. Some responded with love for God, others with love for the world. Through it all, Paul remained faithful to share the good news of Jesus.
For the church in Ephesus to survive, Pastor Timothy’s strength had to come from the grace found only in Jesus. Under intense persecution, Paul was making it clear that suffering would be a normal part of life as a follower of Jesus. Suffering did not need to mean that one was unfaithful. Quite the opposite, to suffer for Jesus was and is normal. Under the suffering we must not be ashamed but willingly submit to the suffering believing the best about God and His plan of redemption for mankind. While others were turning away from the faith, Paul remained strong and encouraged his protégé to join him. Guard the deposit of faith, retain the standard of sound words were just a few of the things Paul taught Timothy. Here in chapter 2 Timothy 2 we see Paul commanded Timothy to find his strength in Jesus. The illustration of soldier, athlete and farmer help us see how life can be lived in obedience to God through the strength we find in His Son.
Matthew recorded the greatest sermon ever preached in Matthew 5-7. Often called, “The Sermon on the Mount,” Jesus’ first public message reminds us that our relationship with God is based on grace through faith. Jesus is clear that we enter the Kingdom of God as beggars needing a handout. He is also clear that as members of His Kingdom, we are called to be salt and light to the world around us. Building on Psalm 34:8, as we taste and see the goodness of God we will reflect His love to others. That reflection of love requires we live according to Jesus’ value system. The values of God’s Kingdom stand in stark contrast to the ways of the world. Our study will focus on six ways Jesus teaches His values stand in contrast to the ways of this world. We will seek to answer the question, “As members of God’s Kingdom through relationship with Jesus, how should we then live?”