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Monday, November 27, 2017

==THE BODY (Fall 2017)==

The Body (Fall 2017)
Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church
September 17 - November 26, 2017

We will focus on being part of the "body" which will touch on commitment, stewardship, and some identifiable challenges.

    Sunday, November 26, 2017

    Thankful for a King (2 Samuel 7.8-17)

    Sermon by: Robert Austell; November 26, 2017 - 2 Samuel 7:8-17

    :: Sermon Audio (link) ::
    Click link to open and play in browser; right-click to save. Sermon audio is also accessible as a free podcast in iTunes. Search for "Good Shepherd Sermons" or "Robert Austell." 

    :: Scripture and Music ::
    Crown Him with Many Crowns (DIADEMATA) 
    Lion of Judah (Robin Mark)
    Revelation Song (Jenny Lee Riddle)

    :: Sermon Manuscript (pdf) ::
    This "manuscript" represents an early draft of the sermon. Some weeks the spoken version varies more than others from the early manuscript. Nevertheless, if you'd prefer to read than to listen, this is provided  for that purpose.

    Today is what is called “Christ the King Sunday.” As you may know, the Christian Church has organized the calendar year in such a way as to tell the biblical story year after year. Some individual churches use this church calendar more than others, but almost everyone observes Christmas and Easter and the seasons leading up to the celebration of Jesus’ birth and resurrection. Next Sunday we will begin Advent, and will begin looking forward to Christmas. But today, is really the end and culmination of the church calendar because we celebrate Christ as King. Next Sunday we start telling the story all over again.

    You have already heard bookend scriptures on the Kingship of Christ. You just heard the covenant promise to King David that would culminate in the coming and reign of Christ. The call to worship described the final scene of Christ as King, victorious over the powers of evil and death. But in another sense, the whole biblical story points towards that ending. And so during the sermon I will read several texts which name Christ as King, to remind us that at every point in history, and at every point in our own lives, Jesus Christ IS King of kings and Lord of Lords. That is something for which I am so thankful and it is Good News indeed! Let’s look briefly at each of these texts.

    Promised King (2 Samuel 7)

    Let’s start with the text from 2 Samuel. The point I want to make here is that the birth of God’s Messiah as “King” was promised ahead of time. One approach to Jesus is to believe that he was an ordinary man (and baby) who God blessed in a special way and set apart. But that is not the biblical story. From the beginning of time God planned to send His Son into the world to make a way for us to be restored to relationship with God. From the earliest parts of scripture, in the stories and promises of God’s people, and reaching as far as the magi or three wise men, God’s promise of a King was known. This promise was implicit in the curse and promise in the Garden and in the covenant with Abraham. It was made explicit in the covenant with David that you just heard. God told David:

    12 When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.

    At first the passage goes on to say “when he commits iniquity” (v.14) which points towards David’s son, Solomon, as the fulfilment of promise. But then God goes on to say, “Your house and your kingdom shall endure before me forever; your throne shall be established forever.” (v. 16) This points far beyond any earthly, human kingdom to the God’s own eternal Kingdom, with Christ as the eternal kingly heir of David. In good Hebrew prophetic manner, BOTH can be true at once. For example, “He shall build a house for my name” (v. 13) seems to describe Solomon, who builds the Temple David began to plan for the Lord. But Jesus also speaks of tearing down the earthly Temple and rebuilding it in three days (with the Temple of his resurrected body). So again, there can be an immediate aspect and application of God’s words as well as an eternal and spiritual one. And, as the Gospel writers go to lengths to demonstrate in their opening genealogies, Jesus is of the royal line of David on both his biological mother and legal father’s sides. He fulfills this 1000 year old promise to King David, which became both the hope and message of many of the prophets as well as the popular hope of the Jewish people.

    Expected King (Matthew 2)

    Matthew 2:1-6 is a familiar text, particularly as we enter into the Christmas season. Listen as I read that. Matthew tells us that just after Jesus was born, magi (the “wise men”) from the east came to find him.

    1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, 2 “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet: 6 ‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, Are by no means least among the leaders of Judah; For out of you shall come forth a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.’ ”

    The wise me traveled and came to the ruler of Judea, Herod the King. They asked, “Where is he who has been born King of the Jews?” (v.2) Of course, this led to trouble with Herod; but the point is that Jesus birth was no accident, nor was the arrival of this “King of the Jews.” He was the fulfillment of God’s promises from the beginning of time.

    Sent King (Matthew 21)

    From this account of the beginning of Jesus’ earthly life, let’s jump to Matthew 21:1-11, to the end of Jesus’ earthly life. This is the great Palm Sunday text, where the people welcome Jesus with shouts of “Hosanna!”

    1 When they had approached Jerusalem and had come to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied there and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to Me. 3 “If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.” 4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: 5 “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold your King is coming to you, Gentle, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’ ” 6 The disciples went and did just as Jesus had instructed them, 7 and brought the donkey and the colt, and laid their coats on them; and He sat on the coats. 8 Most of the crowd spread their coats in the road, and others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them in the road. 9 The crowds going ahead of Him, and those who followed, were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David; Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest!” 10 When He had entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee.” 

    When Jesus sends the disciples to find a donkey, he quotes the prophet Isaiah, “Behold your King is coming to you…” (v.5). And indeed, the crowds went on to welcome Jesus into Jerusalem as a King and hero, shouting for him to save them. The people were waiting for a Savior-King, and thought Jesus might just be that one who would set them free from the oppression and rule of the Roman army. We’ve talked about Palm Sunday before – how the expectations and dreams of a Savior-King were close, but missed the reality of who Jesus was. People were looking for a political Savior rather than a personal and spiritual Savior. Nonetheless, this does not take away from the “sentness” of Jesus as the Savior and King promised and sent from God.

    The King who Suffered (Matthew 27)

    Fast forward just five days in the life of Jesus and you reach the scene in Matthew 27:27-44. There, he is being tortured and crucified, but not before being mocked with purple robes and a crown of thorns as the “King of the Jews.” This description, which had been with him all his life, was affixed over his head on a sign on the cross.

    27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole Roman cohort around Him. 28 They stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him. 29 And after twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand; and they knelt down before Him and mocked Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 30 They spat on Him, and took the reed and began to beat Him on the head. 31 After they had mocked Him, they took the scarlet robe off Him and put His own garments back on Him, and led Him away to crucify Him. 32 As they were coming out, they found a man of Cyrene named Simon, whom they pressed into service to bear His cross. 33 And when they came to a place called Golgotha, which means Place of a Skull, 34 they gave Him wine to drink mixed with gall; and after tasting it, He was unwilling to drink. 35 And when they had crucified Him, they divided up His garments among themselves by casting lots. 36 And sitting down, they began to keep watch over Him there. 37 And above His head they put up the charge against Him which read, “THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS.”

    Jesus our King, suffered and was taken captive and defeated before, as Ephesians 4 describes, he took captivity captive and released us all from our chains. If you have never seen or read the great depiction of this scene in C.S. Lewis’ masterpiece, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, it is well worth doing! Jesus as suffering King is another reminder of our God, who does not remain hidden and aloof in the far reaches of Heaven, but who has come all the way down to where we are to plunge into the depth of human experience and rescue us, employ us, and bring us home.

    The Returning King (Revelation 17)

    Finally, I want to point you to Revelation, to the verse that began our service. It is Revelation 17:14, which reads:

    “These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful.”

    Not only is Jesus the promised and sent King who has suffered with us and for us; he is also the returning King, who will come to establish God’s reign forever. And look at that wording – “those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful.” Those are all words we have used to describe what it is God saves us for. God doesn’t just save us for Heaven, but saves us for His work here on earth. That’s what called and chosen and faithful describes – you and me engaged in the Lord’s work. That’s what it means to be with Him!

    The King who Saves Us

    Christ the King Sunday and these connected texts describing Jesus as King are a fitting last word for the Christian calendar year as well as for our struggles, hurts, and fears. Hear this Good News – Jesus is God’s final Word! Our trouble, discouragement, and doubt – even our sin and death – have not and do not take God by surprise, though they certainly can take us by surprise. Sickness, job loss, family issues, wars, conflict, finances, anxiety, nor anything else – even death – takes God by surprise, though those things can lay us low or overwhelm us. The Good News is that from the beginning of time, promised from the moment Adam and Eve disobeyed and turned from God, God has purposed to send His Son into the world to face what we face and to emerge victorious over it all with all who believe in tow. This is no magic wand for trouble and sorrow; but it is Good News. God is here; God is not surprised, nor reeling defensively from the things that knock our feet out from under us. Rather, God has acted with all the foresight, wisdom, and compassion of a Heavenly Father to send us real help in times of real trouble.

    Jesus is Savior and King, and at the end of the day, as God’s called, chosen, and faithful ones, there is no better place we could be than with Him at His side. And there is no better place to put your trust, offer your prayers, and rest your hope, than in the King who saves us. Amen.

    Sunday, November 19, 2017

    One Thankful Body (Colossians 3.12-17)

    Sermon by: Robert Austell; November 19, 2017 - Colossians 3:12-17

    :: Sermon Audio (link) ::
    Click link to open and play in browser; right-click to save. Sermon audio is also accessible as a free podcast in iTunes. Search for "Good Shepherd Sermons" or "Robert Austell." 

    :: Testimony by Cynthia Wiley ::
    What has God been teaching you or doing with you recently?

    :: Scripture and Music ::
    Every Praise (Hezekiah Walker, John David Bratton)
    Forever (Chris Tomlin)
    Jesus Christ is the Way (Dawn Anthony, soloist; w/choir) (Hawkins/Bean)
    Only What is Done for Christ Will Remain (Dawn Anthony, soloist)
    Love Divine, All Loves Excelling (BEECHER)
    :: Sermon Manuscript (pdf) ::
    This "manuscript" represents an early draft of the sermon. Some weeks the spoken version varies more than others from the early manuscript. Nevertheless, if you'd prefer to read than to listen, this is provided  for that purpose.

    We’ve spent a number of weeks talking about the body as a picture of what it means to be the Church and to be a Christian. Last week we added building imagery: foundations, materials, and a building plan – to talk about God’s purpose of setting us apart to be in community with Him and for Him in this world. Today we return – in a way – to the body imagery to talk about the character of a follower of Christ. But the wonderful picture the Apostle Paul begins with in Colossians is not a body, per se, but the image of clothing a body. Using something we do every day – getting dressed – Paul will challenge us to “put on” the qualities and character of Jesus Christ. Following Jesus means being like Jesus. And this is a particularly easy to understand word-picture. Having said that, I appreciate that the passage doesn’t just start with the dressing. Rather, it starts with our identity – WHO WE ARE in Christ. And then it moves to HOW WE ARE using several more images or metaphors to help us understand how our identity in Christ shapes our relationship to others, to ourselves, and with God.

    WHO You Are (v.12)

    Beginning then in Colossians 3:12, those who have put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ are called “chosen of God, holy and beloved.”  Have you ever considered that, or is church just something you do?  If you trust in Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you are chosen of God and you are holy AND beloved.  We talked some about ‘holy’ (or ‘consecrated’) last week – it doesn’t mean you are perfect, but means that your belonging to God is evident in your life… you are distinctly His. Having begun with who we are, Paul goes on in great detail to describe what makes a Christian so distinct: HOW WE ARE in the world.  How should we be identifiable as belonging to God, like we talked about last week.  There is a list of ways.

    HOW You Are Dressed (vv.12-14)

    In verse 12, those who belong to Jesus are supposed to look like Jesus.  Paul uses “put on” to describe a list of character traits and this is the same word for putting on clothes.  We are to put on the character of Christ each day just like we get dressed for the day.  Here’s the list, and listen for the outcome of dressing this way.  “Put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.”  And here’s how that kind of Christ-like character bears fruit in the world around us.  Those character traits will cause us to bear with and forgive each other, just like Jesus did with us. How you are dressed profoundly shapes and affects how we interact with OTHERS.

    Remember the ending point last week, which was repeated at the beginning of verse 12 today… we are to be consecrated or holy.  That doesn’t mean holier-than-thou and doesn’t mean perfect; it means set apart as distinct for God’s honor or glory.  We are to be identifiable as belonging to God in such a way that we rub off on others in a positive and credible way.  That’s what Paul is describing here.  A Christian isn’t the one with the best church attendance record or who has given the most money, but one who daily dresses with the character of Christ, resulting in the kind of holy impact God designed us for… showing others the grace we have experienced from God.

    An interesting, and perhaps helpful, exercise would be to think through what you are going to “put on” each morning as you begin your day. Some people do this with the spiritual armor described in Ephesians 6 (which you could also do in addition to this!). Or if you ever struggle to know how to begin your day with God, this would be an excellent discipline and habit to cultivate. Perhaps even while you actually get dressed, choose one of these Christ-like characteristics and think or say out loud as you put on each article of literal clothing: [socks] “Today I put on humility.” [pants] “Today I put on gentleness.” [shirt] “Today I put on compassion.” … and so forth. It is part of the strength of this metaphor that we should no more consider going about our day without these traits as we should going about it without our clothes!

    Paul is just getting started though.  In verse 14, he adds one more trait we should wear daily, and it is even more important – “beyond all these things”; it is love.  He doesn’t say as much about love, only noting that it is the “perfect bond of unity,” but he does say that it is most important. And then he changes metaphors slightly and keeps building his message.

    HOW You Are Ruled (v.15)

    In verse 15 Paul writes, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts… and be thankful.”  He says a little bit about the peace – it is our purpose and flows out of the unity that he previously mentioned as a result of love.  And he includes thankfulness, our theme for today.  Thankfulness is a sign that Jesus is ruling in your hearts… that you belong to God.  If I rule my own heart, if my passions and interests are self-serving, I will only be thankful to myself, and that turns to greed.  But if I belong to God then my gratitude to God will result in a willing service, offered freely.  This will not be the only time thankfulness is mentioned in this passage.

    As a spiritual practice, you might include this as you begin your day as well: “Today, I remember that Jesus Christ is my King; I serve Him with obedience and joy.” Or you may find yourself wanting to remind yourself of His rule as you come up to people, places, or situations that can challenge that rule: pulling into work, arriving at school, going out with the peer group – “Jesus Christ is my King; I serve Him with obedience and joy.”

    We often speak of Jesus as Lord. This not only describes giving our lives to follow and serve Jesus. It also reveals our interior lives, whether our lives are yielded to his rule or whether we continue to serve ourselves and practice self-rule. How you are ruled defines how you are with your SELF.

    HOW You Fill Your House (v.16)

    Then Paul offers a third metaphor of Jesus living or dwelling within us.  Paul speaks in verse 16 of the “word of Christ,” which could be the message about Jesus or the content of Jesus’ teaching, or both.  The result of that Word living in us is, again, a rubbing off on those around us as that Word bubbles forth in wise teaching, admonishing, and singing.  I recalls the imagery and booklet I mentioned last week: My Heart Christ’s Home. If our lives are pictured as a house, we must ask what is our foundation, what are the building materials, and how do we fill and use the ‘rooms’ of our lives. Paul teaches us here to let the Word of Christ dwell or inhabit the spiritual house that is our life.

    If you’d like a spiritual practice or discipline for this area, consider acting on the lessons in that small booklet. It does not matter if you haven’t read it. The point is that it compares the rooms of an actual house with the areas of your life. Try a walk through your home sometime, considering the words, messages, and content found in each one: food in the kitchen and eating area, tv and computer in a den or other room, closets with things hidden away or forgotten. As you compare each actual room in your home with areas of your heart or mind, picture the “Word of Christ” in each area. Pray in your den or entertainment area, “Lord, let the Word of Christ fill me even when I am here.” Or there’s the old Jewish practice of writing God’s Word on the doorpost. Some folks like to put scripture up on the walls of rooms of their house. That’s literal, but a great picture of what God invites in this passage: His Word permeating every area of our lives, not just the activity of going to church.

    Note again the word “thankfulness” describing our singing of the Word of Christ. How you fill (or how God fills) the house that is you demonstrates and testifies to how you are with GOD.

    All in the Name (v. 17)

    Finally, in verse 17, Paul gathers up all that has gone before – our identity and the character of Christ – and issues a blanket challenge: “Whatever you do in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus.”  Taken literally, that may sound like we are supposed to tack on, “in the name of Jesus” to everything we say or do. 

    “Let me get that door for you… in the name of Jesus!” 

    “Can I bring you some dinner tonight in the name of Jesus?”

    Rather, that “in the name of Jesus” is a way of pulling together all the powerful metaphors Paul has already used.  He has challenged us to dress ourselves daily in the character of Christ.  He has challenged us to let Christ rule our hearts.  He has challenged us to have the Word of Christ take residence in our lives.  “In the name of” is simply describing a life given fully to Jesus Christ.  It means claiming the identity that God has already declared.  It means saying ‘yes’ to belonging to God.  It means that “Christian” (which is taking on the name of Christ) is not just about what you do, but about who you are.

    What Paul is saying here is that if you belong to God, then belong to God.  Take on the family name, but not just externally or for show, but as the very essence of who you are.

    And then, interestingly, in that summary sentence, we are reminded one last time to give thanks.  “Whatever you do… BE and BELONG to Jesus… and give thanks to God.”  Something to ponder deeply this Thanksgiving week… something to ponder deeply any time.

    Who are you?  Who does God say you are?  What does that mean?  Are you thankful about it? 

    I think the thankfulness comes when we realize whose we are and what that means, because that’s truly amazing when you really grab hold of it and God grabs hold of you.  Amen.

    Sunday, November 12, 2017

    Building a Holy Temple (1 Corinthians 3.10-17)

    Sermon by: Robert Austell; November 12, 2017 - 1 Corinthians 3:10-17

    :: Sermon Audio (link) ::
    Click link to open and play in browser; right-click to save. Sermon audio is also accessible as a free podcast in iTunes. Search for "Good Shepherd Sermons" or "Robert Austell." 

    :: Scripture and Music ::
    Breathe on Us (Kari Jobe, Ed Cash)
    In the Beauty of Holiness (Robin Mark)
    Choir: Santo, Santo, Santo (arr. Parrish)
    Great is Thy Faithfulness (AURELIA)
    :: Sermon Manuscript (pdf) ::
    This "manuscript" represents an early draft of the sermon. Some weeks the spoken version varies more than others from the early manuscript. Nevertheless, if you'd prefer to read than to listen, this is provided  for that purpose.

    Last week we talked about the heart of being human. Jesus said that what we treasure – what we pursue, protect, and prioritize – indicates what is at the heart of who we are. He used body imagery to help us understand this. He also spoke of the eye, saying that our vision – where we set our eyes – also indicates what is going on in our heart. This week we shift from body imagery to building imagery, but the scripture is talking about very similar issues. Rather than speak of the eye or the heart, Jesus and Paul now talk about foundations, materials, and the building plan.

    There is also a shift in vantage point from last week to this one. Last week more asked the question, “Where are you going?” But this week asks the question, “Where have you been and where are you now?” In both cases, the purpose of asking is not to wag my finger and say, “Shame on you,” but to invite self-evaluation and the question, “Am I following and serving Jesus in the way that I want (and the way that he invites)?”

    So, let’s consider this building imagery and the question God asks us through it.

    Foundation (v.11 and Mt. 7)

    This passage in 1 Corinthians 3 begins with verses we talked about several weeks ago. The Apostle Paul is writing to the early church in Corinth, which is dealing with jealousy, strife, and factions within the church (vv.3-4). He writes that they are spiritually immature, still “infants in Christ” who are nursing rather than moving on to solid food. Some say they “belong to Paul” as the founding pastor. Others look to Apollos, a second pastor, and allegiances are divided. Paul hears of this and counters, saying that it all belongs to God – the pastors, the people, and fields, the buildings. (v.9) And that leads to the scripture we heard this morning. After beginning with the body metaphor of infant/grown and milk vs. solid food, Paul moves into building imagery to challenge the Corinthians to grow up in Christ and to build their lives and their church on Him.

    So he says very plainly what Jesus taught by parable in Matthew 7. Paul says, “No one can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (v.11) Otherwise, the plain implication is that it will crumble. Jesus told a short parable with the same point. A wise many built a house on rock and a foolish man on sand. When the storms came, the house on sand fell and was destroyed. Jesus said that the ‘rock’ was His words. Those who act on them are like the wise builder who built on rock. Paul agrees – there is no other foundation that will hold up.

    What does that mean? Think about what a foundation does. It’s the base of everything built on it. If it’s not solid, if it’s not trustworthy, the whole structure can be put at risk, as in Jesus’ parable. If this is a metaphor for our lives, what does that mean for us? We’ve noted before that the Bible says the rain falls on the just and the unjust alike. People of faith get sick, endure literal and figurative storms, and the like. But it’s the foundation that can be different. It’s easy to treat Jesus and faith as a kind of “bonus room” in the house that is our life. But that’s not what’s pictured here. Paul asks: Is Jesus your foundation? If not, what is? That’s what we mean when we ask, “Who is your Lord and Savior?” Savior is saving one and Lord is the one to whom all of life is owed. He does not sit in a corner room on the shelf, but is foundational to all we say and do – all we are.

    Materials (vv.12-13)

    Paul writes of “building on the foundation” in reference to Apollos and others in the church. But his words are applicable to an individual’s life as well as to the church. Remember the children’s story of the three little pigs? It mattered what materials they used. One built a house of straw; one built a house of wood; and one built a house of brick. Paul’s point is similar when he lists gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, and straw. And it is a point similar to Jesus’ parable of the foundation. Some materials endure better than others. It’s entirely possible to profess Jesus as Lord and Savior and then use shabby materials as you build different aspects of your life. (Or the separate issues of “You have a very nice foundation over there… why did you go spend years out camping in the woods or sleeping with the pigs.” That’s the prodigal story, which we’ll tell another time.)

    But in this passage, Jesus may be the foundation, but we may have constructed a ‘house’ of unsubstantial materials. Or we may have some of the house built with better materials but a few walls or rooms that are straw. I remember seeing homes destroyed after the Katrina flooding on the Gulf Shore. In some cases all that was left standing was the foundation and a brick chimney. Plaster and drywall and even wood were rotted out or washed away.

    While we believe that we are saved by God’s grace through faith, God does make clear that it matters how we live our lives. It is entirely possible to build wisely around the foundational fact of our salvation in Christ. And it is entirely possible to build haphazardly and relying on flimsier “materials” like pride, reputation, lies, or worse. And Paul says that such decisions, such “materials” will become evident when tested.

    As you grow up, work, perhaps marry or have a family, establish a reputation, relate as a neighbor, function as a citizen, and 100 other ways you live in the world, Paul asks: With what are you building your life? Is it stuff that lasts? Is it of a quality and character that honors Christ?

    Building Plan (v.10)

    Paul will go on to describe the community in Corinth as a “holy temple” where God’s Spirit dwells. (v.16) And he offers strong warning against any who would tear down the work of building that church. (v.17) In contrast to that intentional tearing down or the result of using poor materials or the result of building on a faulty foundation, let’s look back to Paul’s initial words in v. 10.

    There Paul writes, “…each [one] must be careful how he builds on [the foundation].” Whether talking about the local community of faith, as Paul was, or making application into our individual lives, this is good and godly counsel: Be careful how you build.

    Start with the foundation: Is it Jesus as Lord and Savior? If not, it’s not too late to re-build.

    Consider the materials: Are they good and God-honoring and wise? If not, it’s not too late to renovate.

    Let me offer two additional words of encouragement on rebuilding and renovating. In building terms (and even more in life) it probably always feels too late to re-build. But if you count the cost, how can you not? If you have built half a house and find out your foundation is shaky or failing or on a sinkhole, it would be foolish to keep going. You think, “I’ve already put so much time and money and effort in!” But consider the greater cost. It’s not too late to start over with Jesus. And renovations are a pain! I know it. They make a mess before they make things better. But if you’ve got mold, or termite infestation, or a cracking wall, or sagging supports… renovate! It will be worth it in the long run. Pulling up long-established patterns or habits can be painful and messy. But spiritual and real-life renovation is worth it if you replace it with something good and godly.

    And have a plan: What does your “holy Temple” look like? What is its purpose? This is your life I’m talking about… Why are you here (on Earth)? What is your purpose? What is your calling? What is your plan? Or let me say that better: God has a plan. Do you know what that is? Why God has you here… what God wants you to do? Where God is calling you? It may be that identifying that plan is what leads to re-building or renovation. It doesn’t make sense to add-on or build up if there is something rotten or weak that needs attention. But take time to ask the question and consider God’s answer.


    There is a theological word for following God’s building plans – whether for a community or an individual. That words is “consecration.” It means to set apart as distinctly for and of God. That’s my invitation to you today: God has a plan for you and for us. Will you commit to being a part, to doing the work necessary to be a part even if that means rebuilding or renovating? Because at heart, God’s plan is to include you… in community… with Him. Isn’t that amazing? Even if the walls are moldy and the house is caving in… God’s PLAN and God’s desire is to include you in community with Him. What do you do with that?

    Sunday, November 5, 2017

    Moth and Rust (Matthew 6.16-24, Luke 12)

    Sermon by: Robert Austell; November 5, 2017 - Matthew 6:16-24; Luke 12

    :: Sermon Audio (link) ::
    Click link to open and play in browser; right-click to save. Sermon audio is also accessible as a free podcast in iTunes. Search for "Good Shepherd Sermons" or "Robert Austell." 

    :: Testimony :: What has God been teaching you or doing in your life lately?

    Mark Katibah

    :: Scripture and Music ::
    We Praise Thee, O God (KREMSER)
    Be Thou My Vision/Open My Eyes (SLANE, arr. Austell; refrain Austell/Youngblood)
    Be Ye Glad (Blanchard) - duet
    All in All (Jernigan)
    As the Deer (Nystrom)
    :: Sermon Manuscript (pdf) ::
    This "manuscript" represents an early draft of the sermon. Some weeks the spoken version varies more than others from the early manuscript. Nevertheless, if you'd prefer to read than to listen, this is provided  for that purpose.

    Today we are in the Gospels, where Matthew and Luke talk about things like worry, priorities, reputation, and vision. In doing so, Matthew speaks of the body, in somewhat more literal terms than we’ve seen in previous weeks. In today’s text from Matthew 6, Jesus is talking about the things we treasure, whether of this world or of God’s Kingdom. He issues us a stern warning as well as a hopeful challenge. Then he goes on to speak about knowing a person’s heart through the clarity of their vision. Those are the three topics I’d like to take up with you today: Jesus’ warning, his challenge, and the clarity of our vision for Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church. And those topics should instruct and direct our individual choices of giving and financial commitment.

    The Warning (v.19)

    Jesus warns us in Matthew 6: Do not store up for yourselves treasures upon earth. (v.19) This warning comes in the midst of his “sermon on the mount.” In this extended teaching, he is claiming God’s teaching of old, but re-interpreting it in an internalized, heart-changing way. His teaching on “treasure” or money is no different. His bottom-line concern is, “Where is your heart?”

    And so he cautions us, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures upon earth.” There are at least two reasons why disregarding his warning is fruitless. Jesus reminds us that “moth and rust destroy” such treasure. His meaning is plain: earthly treasures – things like possessions, money, cars, houses, and the rest – are subject to age and decay. Every house or monument we build will eventually fall. Nothing of this world lasts in the end. The forces of time and nature, moth and rust, will eventually win out. Beware moth and rust, because we can’t take it with us.

    Jesus also says, “thieves break in and steal.” (v.20) Our earthly treasures are also up for grabs. Whether it’s literal theft or someone coming after our job or creditors re-claiming what they loaned us, we can expend a whole lot of energy defending our stuff, with no promise at the end of the day that we will be successful. And even if our literal money is safe, the evening news reminds us night after night that everything in this world is temporary and fleeting. Beware the thieves of this world that can claim it all in an instant.

    Realizing the truth of Jesus’ warning should make us clamor for an answer! You’re right Jesus, but if everything we treasure here can be lost in an instant, what in the world is worth treasuring?

    The Challenge (v.20)

    Fortunately, Jesus doesn’t leave us wanting for the answer. He issues a clear and hopeful challenge: store up for yourselves treasures in heaven… (v.20) And these treasures are impervious to moth and rust and impossible for thieves to steal away. 1 Peter 1:3-5 describes the “living hope” of this heavenly treasure:

    Blessed be the God and Father or our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

    What is this living hope? What are these heavenly treasures that are imperishable, undefiled, and eternal? They are faith and life in and through Jesus Christ, expressed in this life through our stewardship of that inheritance and eternally through worship and life in the very presence of God.

    This “living hope” is what we treasure at Good Shepherd. It is what I seek to proclaim to you and what we work to share with the world – Jesus Christ, crucified and resurrected that we might have forgiveness of sin by the grace and love of God. We express that living hope here – we lay up those heavenly treasures – as we worship, witness, teach, come together, grow in faith and faithfulness, and as we give back to God in thankfulness. I’d like to spend the rest of our time together today talking about these heavenly treasures we seek to lay up together.

    Our Vision (v.22)

    It is exactly “vision” that Jesus speaks about next in those verses in Matthew and where he uses the body to explain. Concerning vision, he says, “If your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light…” Jesus says that the “eye is the lamp of the body.” (v.22) His point, after talking about our treasure and our heart is to say that you can see a person’s motivation, you can see a person’s heart through their eyes. You can ‘read’ a person’s loves, likes, and desires by watching their eyes. Where is their eye fixed? On what do they “set their sights?” What is their vision? I believe that in talking about our church and giving to our church, it is crucial to look ourselves in the eye and say, “What is your vision for the Lord?” We must ask ourselves, individually and collectively, “Where is your heart?”

    I’d like to share with you where my heart is, and where I believe the hearts of our church staff and elders are, and where I believe God would have us be as a congregation. I’d like to share with you some of the vision for where Good Shepherd is and where we are headed, by God’s grace.

    1.    WORD AND WORSHIP: Worship has always been and will continue to be at the heart of Good Shepherd; indeed it is the primary purpose and calling of human beings created in God’s image. Through intentionally chosen music and drama, testimonies of what God is doing, and organizing everything around God’s Word, we gather because we believe God meets us here and speaks through His Word. That core belief continues to be the foundational value and vision of my own ministry and that of this church. It’s where our eyes and hearts are fixed. God’s Word and presence is everything.

    2.    MEN’S MINISTRY: Recognizing a need to have ways for men to plug in and connect, we re-committed ourselves to men’s ministry this past year. Monthly gatherings for Wings are not just about food, but a wonderful multi-generational opportunity for sons and grandsons from elementary age up to guys in every age and stage to get together and connect. And the conversation ranges from sports to God-questions to just how spicy the wings are this time around. We had our first men’s retreat this past fall and not only enjoyed hiking, good food, great worship at a local church, but also digging deep with Roger Edwards around themes of marriage, work, and legacy. Of course, women’s ministry is also important and continues to find expression through multiple Bible studies, retreats, and gatherings; that also is part of our vision. But we are thrilled to see men responding to our vision as a church, too! Like so many of our ministries in a church this size, the men’s ministry is not only opportunity for fellowship, encouragement, and accountability, but does all that across generations as a real experience of the family of God. Church is godly community.

    3.    COMMUNITY GARDEN/MINISTRY: I hope you are aware of our community garden. It is more than tilling, tending, and growing plants and vegetables, though that is wonderful in and of itself. It also represents one of our most significant outreach and neighboring ministries in recent years. Not only has it provided the opportunity to welcome neighbors onto our property, but to partner with them in work, conversation, and provision. Whether you become involved in the garden (I hope you will!) or something else like it that we have yet to discover, it represents one of the essential ministries of Christians and the Church: being a good neighbor as Jesus taught and demonstrated.

    4.    UNDERSTANDING RACE AND GOD’S KINGDOM: I have shared with you that God has put issues of race on my heart and mind for some time, but the protests in Charlotte over a year ago prompted a shift in my own vision. I have shared that understanding, confronting, and dismantling racism is not just an “issue” but reflects the teaching of scripture and the values of God’s Kingdom. In the past year I have undergone training and read widely; two of our elders have undergone similar training; and almost twenty folks in the church are reading and discussing the book Waking Up White. I believe God is stirring us and will continue to stir us in the months and years to come. We will continue to have opportunities to examine race, racism, and our culture in the light of Scripture. This is part of being salt and light in the world.

    5.    FOLLOWING JESUS: When I first came to Good Shepherd and talked to the search committee, we realized we shared two essential commitments in common. We believed the Church is built on God’s Word and on following and serving Jesus Christ. That has not changed and continues to be my vision and this church’s vision. The particulars in between may change as ministries are birthed, mature, and end; but God continues to speak and stir us along common themes found in Scripture and in the words and actions of Jesus, who said “Come, follow me.” So know that the vision begins and ends with God’s written and living Word. I believe that’s what God desires of us and is the measure of our faithfulness.

    Where Our Heart Is

    Jesus ended his words on the heart and treasure by saying, “You cannot serve God and wealth (mammon).” His words define stewardship for us. Stewardship is an all-out, heartfelt, full-commitment love of God, worship of God, and service to God. It is “seeking first the Kingdom.” Stewardship demonstrates where our heart is.

    This week you will receive a letter from the church along with a pledge card – an estimate of your giving to the church in 2018. My goal today has not been to hype or to pressure you regarding your pledge. Rather, it has been to remind each of us of what Jesus said about stewardship – it is putting love of God and service to God at the top of life. That’s where the hopes and dreams of the heart lie – with God.

    I believe that as a church we have been and are on the right track – the faithful track. We have worship, service, and the glory of our Lord before our eyes as our vision. We have love of neighbor before our eyes as our vision. We are willing to be and become exactly what God wants us to be. Our eye is clear and it reveals hearts set on heavenly treasure. I believe our church’s mission and vision share the very heart of God. And so, as you consider your participation in the life of our church and as you consider your giving to and through our church, I can say to you with all earnestness and conviction: You are giving to God.

    This week, as you consider your own stewardship, first be challenged by the words of Jesus. Examine your heart – where does it lie? Is it with the heavenly treasure of salvation, hope in Christ, and obedience to following Christ? How will you respond?

    Consider the “vision” of this church. Do we share a “heart for God” here at Good Shepherd? I believe we do! Can you give to and through this church as unto the Lord? It is my hope that as part of the family God has called together as this church that we can work together for God’s Kingdom. Each year, as you give to God through Good Shepherd, my question to the Session remains the same: How can we use what our people have given to God most faithfully to His glory?

    My desire for us as a church is that we all be captivated by the living hope of God’s gracious salvation, drawn in courage and boldness by the Holy Spirit toward the heart of God for us as His precious family in this place and time. Amen.