Sunday, January 18, 2015

DTR on Revival Ch.2 "A Longing for Holiness"

PK here: I offer the following sermon by my friend, the Reverend David Ryan, pastor at Pastor David and I are simultaneously preaching a series based on Adam Hamilton's book "Revival". Here is what Pastor David has to say:

Have you ever that….underlying question of….
Isn’t there more?
Have you ever had the feeling that you are missing something.
Maybe it’s something you feel another has and you don’t
Or maybe it’s something you just sense is …out there.
For the moment beyond your reach
Beyond your grasping.

There’s a dissatisfaction in your soul
A yearning that you can’t quite put a name to
But it’s very real.

I feel that way.
And I’ve come to learn that
That is usually a prompting from the Holy Spirit.
That there is, to use a phrase
From C.S. Lewis, out of his Chronicles of Narnia
A place that is “higher up and further in”
A calling from God –
From His Spirit to our Spirit.

Not to be satisfied with where we are
Especially in our spiritual lives.
We are called to keep growing
To keep becoming more and more like our Father.

I know a  part of us, at least a part of me
Shrinks back from that.
 I read the words from scripture that we read this morning –
“Just as he who called you is holy,
So be holy in all you do….”
And I try to let that sink in….

And I wonder…how can that ever be?
My first response is to be like Peter
After they take in that big haul of fish….
Peter says to Jesus – Go away from me, Lord;
I am a sinful man!”

But Jesus loves me too much to listen to that plea.
He doesn’t go anywhere – but instead offers me grace.
And through his holy spirit, guides higher up and further in.

John Wesley , one of the founders of Methodism
knew this kind of longing for something more.
I shared with you last week how he was the son
Of an Anglican Priest – Samuel , and his wife, a godly mother, Susanna.
Susanna spent time in prayer for John and his brothers and sisters
And spent time each week meeting with each one –
And talking with them about faith, and teaching them in the scriptures.

John knew a lot of stuff in his head.
But he knew, somehow, that there had to be more to it than that.
He went, at the age of ten, to begin his formal education
At a school in London.

He writes that during that time
He still read the scriptures and said his prayers
Morning and evening.
He tried “not to be as bad as other people”
“to have a kindness for religion”
And “ to read the bible, go to church and say his prayers”.

He continued this when he went on to college
At Oxford University –
 Yet there continued this longing within him for something more.

He read some great authors –
Jeremy Taylor’s  “The Rule and Exercises for Holy Living”
Thomas a Kempis “The Imitation of Christ”
And  William Law’s “A serious Call to the Devout and Holy life”

And he learned from them.

Jeremy Taylor wrote on 1 Corinthians 10:31 –
“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything
For the glory of God”.

Wesley was challenged by this, and so am I.
I hope you are too.
Whatever we do, do for the glory of God.

Think about your day yesterday,
You week just spent.
Was it done to the glory of God….or to the glory of you…
Or even to the glory of someone else, other than God.

You know how we pray the Lord’s prayer?
At the end, we say…
“For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever?”

Wesley said that while we might pray that prayer
Sometimes we live another way.
Sometimes it is not “thine” but “Mine”
Sometimes by the way we live,
It’s as if we are praying…
”Mine be the kingdom, and the power and the glory”.

And friends, really, while I sometimes live that way
It’s not the way I want to live.
I know where that kind of living leads to.
There has to be a better way.

When Wesley read  Thomas a Kempis’ “Imitation of Christ”…
Which was now written some 700 years ago he understood
Something which we also need to know – but somehow after
700 years still don’t get. –
That God wants all of us.
Not just our physical life, but hearts – God wants hearts
Fully yielded to him.

The other book I told you influenced him greatly was
That book by William Law – a serious call to a devout life –
This book convinced Wesley of the
“Absolute impossibility of being a half a Christian”

I know that term sounds maybe a little funny to us.

But today we might say
“I’m a sorta kinda mostly a Christian – at least some of time”
Or…Yeah…I mean – I believe in Jesus….I try to keep the ten commandments…at least on Sundays!
I try to do  my part…I show up on Sundays…
I try to be a good example to my children….I give what I can…

But is that enough?

Now…don’t get me wrong.
In order to be saved, in order to be a Christian –
Really , all we need to do is place our faith in Christ.
But…we are missing out on so much if that is as far as we go.
There is more!
There is a holy life!
A life that brings joy to both God and us.

We can move into being what Wesley called
“An Altogether Christian”

Allow me to contemporize a part of the Sermon from Wesley
For our hearts and ears. He asks a series of questions that
Are good for us to ask ourselves -:

Can you answer a hearty “yes” to all of these?

Is the love of God evident in all your heart?
Can you cry out to God, with all sincerity, “My God and my All”?
Do you desire nothing but God?
Are You happy in God?
Is God your glory, your delight, your crown of rejoicing?
Is this commandment written in your heart –
“that one who loves God loves also his brother and sister also?
Do you love your neighbor as yourself?
Do you love everyone – even your enemies,
Even the enemies of God
As you love your own soul?
Even as Christ has loved you?
Do you believe that Christ loved you
And gave himself for you?
Have you faith in his blood?
Do you believe that Christ, the lamb of God, has taken away Your sins and cast them as a stone into the depth of the sea?

That he has blotted out the charges against you –
Taking them away – nailing them to his cross?
Do you have redemption through his blood –
The forgiveness of your sins?
Does His spirit bear witness with your spirit
That you are a child of God?
[questions from Wesley's sermon "The Almost Christian" quoted in Hamilton's Revival, p. 42-43]

Can you indeed say yes to all of those Questions?
Oh I pray that you can.
I pray that you do daily!
And I pray that in fact, you are not satisfied with where you are
With Christ.

I know we walk a fine line  here.
Between faith and works.
I know that there is grace and that we are dependent upon grace.

But I also believe that there are things
We can do to be as open to God’s grace and His works
In our lives as we can be.

This past week, as I was doing my bible reading,
I came across 1 Timothy 4
There Paul is advising young Timothy in the faith
He says….
“Train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value,
But godliness has value for all things,
Holding promise for both the present life and the life to come”.

I have a friend who is always thinking up new ways
To train himself physically, new ways to keep things interesting
As he works out…and that’s a good thing.
I need to do more of that.

But I also need to listen to Paul,
To think of ways to train myself to be godly.

Here are some suggestions:

1)  Never stop learning. One of our values here at Hopeland,
Is lifelong learning. I’ve shared with you how Wesley was influenced by books that he read.  Be a reader. …and not just of fiction! But Theological works – both classics and modern day writers. We are called to be thinkers!  The first words of our passage from scripture today is “prepare your minds for action”….I am trying to read one theologically oriented book a month to keep me thinking, to keep me wrestling with what I believe. I’m also regularly watching a teaching in our “Rightnowmedia” resource, and would encourage you to do the same. If a book a month seems to much, then at least be reading or listening to something regularly to challenge you.

2)  Live with the scriptures. I’ve shared with you a read though the scriptures record keeping system – a lot of you have taken them – we still have some left and can make more copies. My life is richer when I am regularly reading through the scriptures, in addition to my more specific studies. I’ve also renewed my commitment to memorizing the scriptures.
I want to try to memorize 52 verses this year – one a week –
And keep the all alive in my brain. Right now I am working on Psalm 103 which has 22 verses in it. Our children are encouraged to memorize a verse a week. Tori Wilkerson is my hero in this – you should hear her sometime, recite the verses that she knows!

3)  Pray. Learn to pray without ceasing. Being regularly in communication with the spirit of God. Set aside special times to pray. In the morning, at mid day, in the evening. Use hymns to pray, sing them to the Lord as you drive from place to place, or as you go about your work.

4)  Be in good fellowship with others – not just for a good time –
Although good times are a part of it..but be with folks with whom you can share what you are learning, what you are doing in your faith – to ask one another – how is it with your soul?
Read together. Pray together. Worship together.

5)  Pursue acts of compassion and mercy. Wesley and his friends were careful to minister with the poor, with prisoners. With elderly folks, with any who were in need. As you look at your life…how are you showing compassion? To whom are you being the hands and feet of Jesus? Remember that Jesus said, in offering even a cup of cold water to one who is thirsty, you are serving me. We cannot follow Christ, and serve only ourselves and our own families. Yes, it takes time, yes it takes sacrifice of energy, yes it is sometimes inconvenient. A few weeks ago we shared in the Covenant renewal service. And in that service we confessed that sometimes we can please God and please ourselves – but there are times when we cannot please ourselves and please God. Each time, let us choose, no matter what, to please and serve God in faithfulness.

God is not through with us yet.
Adam Hamilton tells a story of talking with
A junkyard man he met in Kansas city.

This particular junkyard held all kinds of rusted out,
Broken down cars – particularly mustangs.

Adam asked the junkyard guy what he saw when
He looked at all those dilapidated Mustangs in the salvage yard…
and the man replied…
“I don’t see them as they are…I see what they could be”.

What a great illustration that is for how God sees us.
He does not just see us as we are – but he sees us as we could be….”

He does not see us as “almost Christians”….
he sees us a
s “altogether Christians”….

When he says…be holy, even as I am holy….he means it.
He sees it in us. It is possible.
How I want to get there.

Oh..I mess up…way too often.
But I belong to a God who forgives me, and restores me.
And leads me, each day, as far as I am willing to follow
To be more like him.
Yes, to even be more holy.

You can belong to this same God, if you don’t already.
He loves you and is calling to you.
Don’t be satisfied with where you are.
There is more.
Long for holiness…and each day move closer.
Do what you can do to be present to that miracle,
And God will do the rest.

Surrender all to Him.

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