At our Men’s Study this last week on the life of Moses we studied the chapters around our text and I want to come back to it and look at one aspect of it is more depth this morning. With a sermon title, The Gospel is the Glory of God, you might be wondering what we are doing in the OT. We’re blowing up another myth. Last week’s myth was that the Gospel is just something we share with people who are not Christians. Rather the Gospel is something we need to share with ourselves every day. We need to cultivate the habit of preaching the Gospel to ourselves daily to counter all the other voices in our heads and lies in our culture. Today we will see the Gospel is in the heart of God and on display in all of His dealings with His people. God has lead His people, the nation of Israel, out of Egypt and has brought them through the wilderness to Mt. Sinai. In Exodus 20 we read the Ten Commandments which are like marriage vows, covenant commitments, where God makes His covenant to be their God and they will be His people.
You may remember me saying that I John is a challenge because he is so repetitious. He uses a 300 word vocabulary to write a 2300 word letter. So this evening I will focus on a couple of smaller specific points that can be easily missed when dealing with the larger points. We will begin at the end of our text.
How many of you aspire to be a preacher? Any of you want to be a preacher when you grow up? Can any of you picture yourself as a preacher? OK, let me ask a different question. How many of you have worries, fears, doubts, anxiety, nagging concerns, negative thoughts, self-pity, self-condemnation? How many of us are ever worried or stressed about our lives, our families, our finances, our futures, our health, about some situation or relationship? Guess what, you are already a preacher and just didn’t know it. All of us are preaching to ourselves all the time. All our worries, fears, doubts, lingering anxiety, feelings of impending trouble or doom, are all a kind of false gospel that we all preach to ourselves. It starts as soon as we wake up with the troubles of the day facing us, and it is the last thing we do as we fall asleep. Every quiet moment can be interrupted with a cycle of negative thinking and self-talk.
“Why does a woman work ten years to change a man's habits and then complain that he's not the man she married?” -Barbra Streisand I married the wrong person. How many of us discovered after we got married that we weren’t married to the same person we were dating and engaged to? You should have seen the look of shock on my wife’s face when she found that out. Let me burst some bubbles. We never marry the right person. People today are looking for the perfect someone who fulfills their desires and meets their expectations and with whom they can live happily ever afterward. Let me give just two reasons why this expectation is doomed to failure.
In the first half of last century two chilling novels were written predicting what the future could look like. In 1932 Aldous Huxley published Brave New World and in 1949 George Orwell published 1984. They gave two very different pictures of what the world and culture would become like. In Orwell’s prophecy the world is ruled by Big Brother and controlled by Thought Police. Picture communist controlled counties like North Korea or China or Russia. Huxley’s was different. Listen to Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death, p. vii-viii: Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley's vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think. What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, [amusing ourselves to death with an] almost infinite appetite for distractions. In 1984 people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we desire will ruin us. People might rise up against a culture of oppression and coercion, but who will rise up against a culture of pleasure and entertainment and mindless amusement? Consider this sermon one small attempt to wake us up out of our stupor and equip us for some form of resistance before we make shipwreck of our faith.
At our Woodyard family Christmas gathering this year we played a game of This or That. People had to go to one side of the room or the other based on their preference for this or that. Starbucks or Woods, Huskies or Cougars, Coke or Pepsi, Packers or Seahawks, turkey or ham. Using contrasts and comparisons are great tools in teaching and effective in writing essays. We are helped to understand some things by looking at the opposites. John has been using this tool very effectively in his letter. Walk in darkness and walk in light Say we have no sin and confess our sin Love the world and love the Father Children of the devil and children of God. Hate your brother and love your brother. Our passage starts a new section in this letter. Most commentators on John’s first letter see it as having two parts and one main reason for saying it is each part starts with the same words.
How many of you are growing older? Wow, pastor, that’s two sermons in a row where you have started off with a dumb question. Last week was how many of you have ever forgotten something? Now how many of us are growing older? Those of you who lurk about Facebook know a few weeks ago someone started a 10 Year Photo Challenge. You’re supposed to post two pictures of yourself side by side, one from 10 years ago and one from now. I know, you are thinking, why would anyone do that on purpose? Lots of celebrities and famous people are doing it to show off how great they still look. Others are owning up to the realities of what age does to our faces and bodies. So why am I talking about this topic this morning. Last week we considered the least of these, the little ones in their mother’s wombs. This morning I want to consider the other end of life, the oldest of these, the senior saints. Next week I will speak to a topic that will land in the middle, parents and the challenges of navigating the technology driven culture we are immersed in, or maybe submerged in. Pray for me as we tackle technology and smartphones and social media. The Puritan Edmund Barker said, “Every Christian hath two great works to do in the world, to live well, and to die well.” Dying well was something they prepared for by living well. So my goal this morning is to pass on some wisdom from God concerning the number of our days and how to age with grace or as the Puritans would say how to finish well and die well.
Have any of you ever forgotten anything? Dumb question, right? Of course, we have, we all do. Forgetting is easy and it gets easier as you grow older. Some of us have to go to extra effort not to forget things. We write notes, make lists, write on our hand, tie a string around our finger, put keys in exactly the same place every time so we can find them next time. Certain things in our personal lives are considered so important that we have days to remember them, birthdays, anniversaries, special events. It’s important, we want to remember. This same thing is true in our national life, in our life as a country, there are days too important to forget. Tomorrow is MLK Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Veterans Day. As Christians we remember Christmas and Easter. We can’t imagine ever forgetting those days. But some important things are being forgotten. There are now generations of Americans who have no clue about the Holocaust, and some deny it even happened. Today is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, marking the 46th anniversary of the infamous Supreme Court ruling, Roe v. Wade, legalizing abortion. In some ways abortion has become so commonplace in our culture that it is becoming forgotten, considered old news.