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Sermon Series

 

October 26, 2014 A.D. by Pastor Ben Willis

According to John 13:1-17 [NLTse]
Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that His hour had come to leave this world and return to His Father. He had loved His disciples during His ministry on earth, and now He loved them to the very end. 2 It was time for supper, and the devil had already prompted Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had given Him authority over everything and that He had come from God and would return to God. 4 So He got up from the table, took off His robe, wrapped a towel around His waist, 5 and poured water into a basin. Then He began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel He had around Him.
6 When Jesus came to Simon Peter, Peter said to Him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
7 Jesus replied, “You don’t understand now what I am doing, but someday you will.”
8 “No,” Peter protested, “You will never ever wash my feet!”
Jesus replied, “Unless I wash you, you won’t belong to Me.”
9 Simon Peter exclaimed, “Then wash my hands and head as well, Lord, not just my feet!”
10 Jesus replied, “A person who has bathed all over does not need to wash, except for the feet, to be entirely clean. And you disciples are clean, but not all of you.” 11 For Jesus knew who would betray Him. That is what He meant when He said, “Not all of you are clean.”
12 After washing their feet, He put on His robe again and sat down and asked, “Do you understand what I was doing? 13 You call Me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. 14 And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. 15 I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. 16 I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. 17 Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them.

Sermon
Do you see the powerplay going on here? No. It goes on quietly, unaddressed, like so many powerplays do. But you know how it goes: The place is a mess, but everyone pretends they don’t notice so that somebody else will have to do something about it, but not them. There’s work to do but everyone says, “It’s not my job,” to keep themselves off the hook…

In a culture where walking was the predominant mode of transportation and an environment where the air was dry and the streets were dirt or dirty, footwashing was a basic part of hospitality. But for feet that had walked through dirt and mud as well as sometimes the piles that horses, donkeys, cattle, and sheep left behind, yuck to the person who had to do the washing!

So that Passover night, as each of the disciples entered the upper room, I imagine they must have pretended that they didn’t need their feet washed. As they shook the dust off their robes and out of their hair and tunics, they must have simply ignored what each other was tracking in across the floor. I see Judas (not Iscariot but Judas the son of James), I see him going over to the table and making a big deal to Philip about the table settings. Andrew and James wander towards the windows to admire the view. Simon Peter and John rush over to the table to reserve places on either side of Jesus. (The others can’t believe they didn’t think about that.) Judas Iscariot, Bartholemew, and the other James (John’s brother) are overly involved in some inflated debate about Pilate and Caiaphas. Matthew – always by himself because the other disciples have never taken much of a liking to the tax-collector – he’s spending extra time brushing out and rearranging his nice clothing. And Thomas and the other Simon enter as though they didn’t have a care or thought in the world… If anyone had asked any one of them about the footwashing, each in his own way would have replied, “Footwashing? What footwashing? We don’t need that here.”

It’s a powerplay. It happens every day. Think about the lengths to which many go each day to get out of doing work around the house or around their workplace; how clever many have become in getting out of doing homework and all the unpleasant and sacrificial jobs that are a part of being Christ’s church.

Jesus, the Son of God, the Maker of Heaven and Earth, the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the darling of Heaven, the bright morning star! He tells us: Do you want to win the powerplay? Do you want to live so that no one around you ever has any power over you again? Be a servant.

When some big bully comes up and slaps you across the face and smirks down at you, you want to keep him from having power over you? Offer him the other cheek, as well. When some tough guy throws his backpack at you and tells you to carry it to his locker for him, do you want to keep him from having any power over you? Tell him you can carry it to his next class for him, as well.

“You want to win the powerplay in any room?” Jesus asks. Take the seat farthest from the head of the table. Be the first to bring the sponge or the mop. Let the people around you promote you, “No, Jesus! You are not going to wash my feet!” Let the host or hostess reach out to you, “Rich, don’t sit down there, come up here closer to me.” “No, Ben, thanks for getting the mop but I’ll take care of the spill, thank you very much.”
Do you want to be first in the Kingdom of Heaven? Then be content at being last and the most servant-minded here. People line up to do the tasks that are considered important, glamorous, or respected. But Jesus showed humility and true love by doing the task that no one else wanted to do. He washed the disciples’ feet – one of the dirtiest of jobs usually performed by the lowest ranking person in the room. And yet was Jesus the lowest ranking person? No. He was the Lord, the Rabbi, and the Teacher. And He knew He would soon be at the Father’s side in Heaven. Did He think it was too lowly a task for Him to do? No. Are there tasks that we won’t do because they are lowly? Because they are dirty? Because they are unpleasant or hard? And yet, aren’t those the jobs that most need to be done? And won’t God reward those who do His work? We need to be willing to do whatever is needed. Jesus was not only willing, He prepared Himself to do this service. He set His mind to it. Have we made plans, have we set ourselves, to serve others? People can’t make you serve them if you are always choosing to love and serve them first.

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give His life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-27)

Do you want to be great in the Kingdom of God? “You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had: Though He was God, He did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, He gave up His divine privileges; He took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When He appeared in human form, He humbled Himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.”

And what was the result of His servant-mindedness? “Therefore, God elevated Him to the place of highest honor and gave Him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in Heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:5-12)
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The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is not looking for those who are great to follow Him. He is looking for servants and those willing to serve to make great as He empowers their service and joins them in their acts of love.



October 19, 2014 A.D. by Pastor Ben Willis

THE BIBLE IS OUR SPIRITUAL COMPASS

Need: A compass

Scripture: “Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” (Psalm 119:105) “Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6)

I got a new app for my phone last night. It’s a compass. Have all of you have seen a compass? A compass is used to find the right direction to get you to where you want to go. The compass has four main directions: North, South, East, and West. To have a compass work it’s important to keep the needle of the compass always pointing North. If the needle is pointing in that direction (point to the North) and I want to go South, I would go that direction (point in the opposite direction from what the needle is pointing.) With the needle pointing North, if I wanted to go East, I would go in that direction (point to the East.)

What would it be like if the needle sometimes pointed North but at other times it pointed to the South, East, or West? I would never be able to use the compass to find my way. I would wander around, hopelessly lost. The compass must always point in the right direction if it is going to help guide us.

When we are trying to find our way through life, God has given us a compass to guide us along the Way, as well. Does anyone know what that is? That compass is the Bible: God’s Holy Word. The truth that we find in the Bible never changes. It will always point us in God’s direction. It will always point us to Jesus.

Some people use their feelings to help them to decide what they should do. That’s no good. Our feelings change from day to day and they cannot be trusted. Besides that, just because we feel good about something doesn’t mean that it is the right thing to do.

Some people choose what they will do by what’s popular. That is no good either. Just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t mean that it is the right thing to do, does it? Tomorrow everyone might be doing something else.

There is only one thing that we can trust to always point us in the right direction, and that is the Bible. It will always point to Jesus and Jesus said ” I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through Me.”

[Give out Bibles to 3rd Graders…]

Father, we thank you for giving us the Bible to be our guide through life. Help us to remember that we can always depend on the Bible to point us in the right direction. Amen.



October 5th, 2014 A.D. by Pastor Ben Willis

The Gospel According to John 12:20-36 [NLTse]
20 Some Greeks who had come to Jerusalem for the Passover celebration 21 paid a visit to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee. They said, “Sir, we want to meet Jesus.” 22 Philip told Andrew about it, and they went together to ask Jesus.
23 Jesus replied, “Now the time has come for the Son of Man to enter into his glory. 24 I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives. 25 Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity. 26 Anyone who wants to serve me must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves me.
27 “Now my soul is deeply troubled. Should I pray, ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But this is the very reason I came! 28 Father, bring glory to your name.”
Then a voice spoke from heaven, saying, “I have already brought glory to my name, and I will do so again.” 29 When the crowd heard the voice, some thought it was thunder, while others declared an angel had spoken to him.
30 Then Jesus told them, “The voice was for your benefit, not mine. 31 The time for judging this world has come, when Satan, the ruler of this world, will be cast out. 32 And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” 33 He said this to indicate how he was going to die.
34 The crowd responded, “We understood from Scripture that the Messiah would live forever. How can you say the Son of Man will die? Just who is this Son of Man, anyway?”
35 Jesus replied, “My light will shine for you just a little longer. Walk in the light while you can, so the darkness will not overtake you. Those who walk in the darkness cannot see where they are going. 36 Put your trust in the light while there is still time; then you will become children of the light.”
After saying these things, Jesus went away and was hidden from them.

Sermon
I’ve been trying to think about what I want written on my gravestone. Here are some of my options so far:

Benjamin Park Willis – He was a successful pastor

Benjamin Park Willis – He accumulated great wealth and possessions

Benjamin Park Willis – He knew how to party and have a good time

Benjamin Park Willis – He was a great philanthropist

Benjamin Park Willis – He was a selfless humanitarian

Benjamin Park Willis – He paid his bills, provided for his family, and stayed out of jail…

As our reading begins Jewish pilgrims from all over the Roman Empire and surrounding lands have begun arriving in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. Among them would have been “God-fearing Gentiles”, as they were called, who, although not having converted to Judaism, regularly attended such festivals to worship the God of Israel. As Neil just read, among these “God-fearers” were some Greeks who had heard about Jesus’ raising Lazarus from the dead and who were looking to meet Him, and to meet Lazarus.

These Gentiles seeking Him seems to be a signal to Jesus from the Father that the time had finally arrived for Him to be glorified, and in doing so to glorify the Father: That is, for Jesus to draw peoples’ attention to Himself, and by doing so, to draw their attention to the Father!

Of course, He knew this would result ultimately in His death – that His death would create such a spectacle that He would have the undivided attention of each and every one of the thousands who had traveled to Jerusalem for the Passover Celebration! (His resurrection would be a part of His being glorified and drawing attention to Himself and onto the Father, and His ascending to Heaven would be a part of His being glorified and drawing attention to Himself and onto the Father, too, but at the heart of Jesus’ glorification was the cross…)

Likewise, in his first letter to the Corinthians the apostle Paul writes, “Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, Who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must [glorify] God with your body.” (6:19-20) And summarizing the whole testimony of Scripture in response to the love God has shown us in Jesus, The Westminster Shorter Catechism states that “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.” That is, that humanity’s primary purpose for existing is to draw one anothers’ attention to God, and to enjoy God forever.”

That’s why you exist; that’s why I exist: To draw peoples’ attention to God and enjoy Him always.

Preacher, philosopher, and theologian Jonathan Edwards, widely acknowledged to be America’s most important and original philosophical theologians and one of our nation’s greatest intellectuals, took this business of glorifying God very seriously. Here are several resolutions Edwards put forward as to how he would live for God’s glory:

“1. Resolved, Never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God, nor be, nor suffer it, if I can possibly avoid it.” So he resolved to never do anything that didn’t direct others’ attention to God in a way that made God look good. Like Thumper’s mother who said, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all,” Edwards resolved that if what he needed to do couldn’t glorify, or if he couldn’t do it in a way that brought God fame, then he wouldn’t do it at all.

“2. Resolved, Frequently to take some deliberate action, which seems most unlikely to be done, for the glory of God.” Jonathan Edwards looked for crazy ways to draw peoples’ attention to God. Picking up all the trash around some store or business, putting all the carts away at the grocery store, asking if he could mow his neighbor’s lawn or shovel his driveway without being asked first, etc… He looked around him for opportunities to be merciful or gracious that nobody considered to be in their right mind would do, and then gave God credit for it when people asked why.

“3. Resolved, That no other end but religion have any influence at all on any of my actions.” That is, everything he did he was going to do for God.

“4. Resolved, To strive every week to be brought higher in religion, and to a higher exercise of grace, than I was the week before.” To not be content to remain at the same level of intimacy with Christ and the same level of zeal to those around him, but to grow more and more gracious week by week, more and more loving, more self-sacrificing, more obedient to God’s Spirit: To grow!

“5. Resolved, Never to do anything but my duty, and then, according to Eph. vi. 6-8 to do it willingly and cheerfully, as unto the Lord, and not to man: knowing that whatever good thing any man doth, the same shall he receive of the Lord.” So, not just to do everything for God but to do everything as though doing it to God: Working for our employer as though he or she was God; doing our schoolwork as though our teacher were God; living together around our homes as though our parents or our children or our husbands or our wives were the Lord God Himself, and not some human whom we could treat in lesser ways.

“6. Resolved, That I will live so, as I shall wish I had done when I come to die.” Each decision made, each action taken, from the perspective of what he might have wished to have done as he was dying.
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“7. Resolved, To live with all my might, while I do live.” To live abundantly and to Christ’s fullest!

The Westminster Shorter Catechism states that “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.” So I guess I could add to my list:
Benjamin Park Willis – He glorified God, and always enjoyed Him…
I don’t know about all of you but I think I’m going to hope for that one.