What keeps us from doing the things of our Father?
Last week we learned that we discover who we really are by doing the things of our Father. Today I want to consider what keeps us from doing the things of our Father.
I have heard, but have been unable to verify, that a 4 inch by a 4inch block of hardwood wedged into the wheel of a locomotive, a train, will prevent the train from starting to move forward from a dead stop. In other words, it's hard to get going when you're jammed up.
Ever hear of a penny on the track being able to derail a train? Good news it's not true. All you get is a flat penny as the train rolls on. But derailment can occur especially when there is an operational error.
There are things that will jam you and things that can derail you as you set about doing the things of your heavenly Father.
The beginning of Jesus’ public ministry is a fulfillment of a divine promise. Often we think everything should be easy if God is for us. But things are never easy. We are going to look at a promise in the Old Testament and see how it is fulfilled in the gospel according to Mark. Then we’ll look at Jesus’ difficult beginning and see in His struggle our own and how to overcome jammers and de-railers.
Chinese philosopher Lay Tzu is quoted: “The journey of a thousand mile begins with one step.” To make the journey into the Land of Promise you have to remove the jammers and clear out the de-railers.
Here’s a question to contemplate as you practice the 7 habits of a disciple:
Do the best endings have the most difficult beginnings?
Malachi, the only Italian Jewish prophet wrote—Ok, his name is pronounced Malachi and he most likely wasn’t Italian.
Malachi 3:1 (MSG)
"Look! I'm sending my messenger on ahead to clear the way for me. Suddenly, out of the blue, the Leader you've been looking for will enter his Temple—yes, the Messenger of the Covenant, the one you've been waiting for. Look! He's on his way!" A Message from the mouth of God-of-the-Angel-Armies.
God through His prophet tells the people that He will send a messenger, a herald, someone who will let everyone know that Messiah, the long-awaited leader is on his way, close at hand, ready to come center stage.
Mark begins his gospel by quoting Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3 and then introduced John the Baptist, the Messenger of God.
Mark 1:4-8 (NIV)
And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. John wore clothing made of camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. And this was his message: "After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."
Today when we baptize a new believer it is a public testimony of a person’s faith in Christ, their voice telling everyone that they are living a new life in Christ. But with John’s baptism, the idea is different. With John, the ritual was for repentance demonstrating the desire for spiritual cleansing and a commitment to follow God in anticipation of the coming of the long-awaited leader, the Messiah. John’s baptism was a ritual of purification to prepare a person for Jesus who can baptize with the Holy Spirit, changing you from the inside out. You could think of John’s baptism as the desire for life change and Jesus’s baptism as the empowerment to change.
Mark tells us that the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to John, the prophet in the wilderness. One day, one person came from outside the “mainstream,” a man from Galilee. He comes to be baptized. We read of this exchange between John and his cousin Jesus in the gospel according to Matthew
Matthew 3:13-15 (MSG)
Jesus then appeared, arriving at the Jordan River from Galilee. He wanted John to baptize him. John objected, "I'm the one who needs to be baptized, not you!"
But Jesus insisted. "Do it. God's work, putting things right all these centuries, is coming together right now in this baptism." So John did it.
When John does, something incredible happens. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all report what occurred and like most reports each puts his own spin on the event.
Mark 1:10-11 (MSG)
The moment he came out of the water, he saw the sky split open and God's Spirit, looking like a dove, come down on him. Along with the Spirit, a voice: "You are my Son, chosen and marked by my love, pride of my life."
I imagine that Jesus felt that same elation we feel when we first come to realize that God has made us his child. There is an excitement as a whole new world open up to you. It's like having been blind, you now can see; being deaf, you now can hear; being a cripple, you now can walk. It is a spiritual high, a mountaintop experience.
Driving this week from point a to point b, from home to meeting to errand to office I heard two songs on the radio that reminded me that the journey is difficult.
The songs were Ringo Star’s “It Don’t Come Easy and Jackson Brown’s The Boulevard. The lyrics that stuck in my head were “It don't come easy, You know it doesn't come easy, It don't come easy … I don't ask for much, I only want your trust, And you know it don't come easy, And this love of mine keeps growing all the time, And you know it don't come easy;” and from Jackson Brown: “Nobody rides for free, Nobody gets it like they want it to be, Nobody hands you any guarantee..”
Beginnings are hard and the journey is difficult. Jesus inaugurates a brand new beginning for seekers of God with His baptism and immediately things get difficult.
Mark 1:12-13a (MSG)
At once, this same Spirit pushed Jesus out into the wild. For forty wilderness days and nights he was tested by Satan.
Satan wants to stop Jesus right at the beginning. Satan wants to keep Jesus from stepping out into this new beginning. Mark doesn’t report to us what happened in the desert wilderness, but Matthew does. You’ll find the account in Matthew Chapter 4. What we find in these tests are the common derailers that will get us off track.
But first lets think about jammers. Jams are like those 4 x 4 blocks that keep that train from pulling out of the station. Every beginning has an obstacle or two that keeps us from getting going. Sin is that 4x4 block that will jam you up at the beginning, that will keep you from moving forward. If there is some sin in your life that is keeping you from moving forward you have to deal with it or you will never take that first step.
It may be a sin of omission. A sin of omission is when you know the good you are to do but refuse to do it. James 4:17 (MSG) In fact, if you know the right thing to do and don't do it, that, for you, is evil.
It may be a sin of commission. A sin of commission is when you know what you are doing is wrong but do it anyway.
You know the result of sin. Sin results in damaged and destroyed relationships. The relationships that each of us need to be right are with God, with Others, with the Our Self, and with the Earth. A right relationship with the earth means that you are a good steward of the material blessings God has entrusted to you.
The way you get rid of sin is to identify it, confess it and repent of it and be held accountable for the change in behavior. The way you identify sin is simply to ask God to show you if something is jamming you from moving into living your life to the full. God will show you through your practice of the 7 habits of a disciple. The scripture will reveal it, prayer will uncover it, a fellowship will illuminate it. Problems with service, worship, and obedience are all signs of a sin problem. If you are still having difficulty identifying what is jamming you, contemplation, that vulnerable deep soul searching, heart to heart, with the Holy Spirit will disclose what is hidden.
Once you identify the sin, confess it. Tell someone that you implicitly trust to keep your confidence. Find a verse of scripture that guides you away from the sin and onto the right path. Knowing the truth will set you free. Repent means to forsake whatever it is that you are doing or failing to do which you have been shown is sin. In repentance, you starve the offending behavior by refusing to indulge or even entertain the thought. Finally, have your confessor hold you accountable. You need someone to whom you need to report to on your progress. That’s how you get rid of jams, that keep you from moving on the journey.
Now let’s examine the de-railers. The things that will throw you off track. The Mark calls them tests. There are three tests that Satan uses to derail Jesus, turn stones into bread, jump off the heights, and bowing down. These tests are not unique to Jesus. Every time we step out on a journey of faith we will be tested also. The first test to throw you off the track is about egoism, using what you have for yourself, that’s what turning stones into bread to satisfy your own wants is about. The test specifically for Jesus used his power to take care of his wants and secondly to be the kind of leader who gives the people what they want to get them to follow Him. The second de-railer deals with fame. Be famous, be popular, be wanted. In Hollywood fame brings money, money brings power, power brings more fame, for a season. Arrogance and pride, being a user and abuser will knock you off the tracks. The test specifically for Jesus was to use his power to be a sensation by jumping off the Temple and let the people see Him land unharmed, just keep wowing the crowds and they will follow you. The third track jumper deals with integrity. Shortcuts and the end justifying the means, cheating builds a faulty foundation that will eventually collapse. The test specifically for Jesus is to compromise the message, don’t place the bar of spirituality and purity and holiness so high after all the people are only human. Fail the tests and you will become de-railed in your spiritual journey.
Jesus decided that he must never bribe others into following him; he decided that the way of sensations was not for him; he decided that there could be no compromise in the message he preached and in the faith he demanded. You also will uniquely decide how to pass the tests of egoism, fame, and integrity. Jesus shows you how to pass the tests. When the test came Jesus obeyed scripture. Three tests and Jesus used scripture to help Him decide what to do. Egoism—make bread for yourself: Deuteronomy 8:3 (NIV) “..man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” Fame—be a sensation. Deuteronomy 6:16 “Do not test the Lord your God.” Integrity—bow down; Deuteronomy 6:13 “Deeply respect God, your God. Serve and worship him exclusively.” Jesus removed the things that could de-rail him through obedience to the scripture. Obedience to scripture, using scripture to guide you keeps you on track. King David wrote: “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Psalms 119:11 (NIV).
Jammers and de-railers, you’re going to deal with them so that you can move along in your journey of becoming the person God created you to be, to live your life to the full, to enter into the promised land.
Life is difficult
To make the journey into the Land of Promise you have to remove the jammers and clear out the de-railers. The jammers are sins of omission and sins of commission. You remove the block by identifying, confessing, repenting and being held accountable. The de-railers are egoism, fame, and integrity. Allow scripture to guide you and the Truth will keep you on the tracks,
Johnny Cash Life’s Railway to heaven https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UKoIuz71hbg
Casting Crowns Jesus, Friend of Sinners https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ipwEtvWL_3c
Power of your love https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ga6Qtxzd6vk
I lift my hands https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u1Hk4J8Jsu0
Jon Boy Glory Bound Train https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zrWZUWH-jd8
This Train is Bound for glory
Canton Spirituals—Ride This train