Pastor’s Sermon

Pastor’s Sermon

The Lord is with Us!
Photography by Don Blais

Out of Step

April 18, 2021

In our society, there are many influences encouraging us to get in step with something or someone. We are bombarded with advertising trying to persuade us to wear certain fashions, drink and eat certain products, drive a particular make of car. Political parties are constantly attempting to convince us get in step with their agendas. While many of these can be very good and appropriate, that is not always the case.

In Galatians 1:10 Paul wrote, “Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” That raises a question that makes me squirm. Am I striving to be more in step with what people think, say and do, or am I trying to be in step with the way God wants me to live? As a teenager and young adult, I was desperate to fit in which led me to follow along with the crowd and resulted in my making more than a few poor choices. I wish I could say that was all behind me but I sometimes still feel reluctant to tell people about the Lord because I didn’t want to be out step with what I think they might not want to hear.  With that, I’m telling you how I sometimes act, not how I think I should be. I find it curious that I occasionally feel that way since it is unlikely that anyone would get angry with me or say anything negative in response and yet I am afraid of what others might think of me. I know that in this country I won’t be put in prison or worse because of my faith, so why do I fear? That is a question I struggle to answer.

In the past I have talked about the meaning of both the Hebrew and Greek words that are translated fear. In both Hebrew and Greek the same words can be used to mean to be afraid of something of someone or, when speaking about God, the words usually mean reverence whereby an individual recognizes the power and position of the individual revered and renders proper respect. Which should be greater, my fear of what people think of me or my reverence for God?

The reverence that Paul had for the Lord led him to write 2 Corinthians 5:11 “Since, then, we know what it is to fear [honor and respect] the Lord, we try to persuade men.” Paul dedicated most of his adult life to trying to persuade people to put their faith in Jesus. In verses 14-15 he continued, “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” Prior to his encounter with the risen Christ, Paul walked in step with the prevailing religious traditions he had been taught from childhood. After his encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus he chose a radically different path and became one of history’s most influential spokesmen for Christ. His ongoing relationship with the resurrected Jesus compelled him to try to convince as many people as possible to stop walking the path of the religious or secular society around them and to get in step with faith in the Lord. In Ephesians 5:1-2 he wrote, “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” This was not just another set of religious rules to follow, he was trying to guide people into a relationship with the living Messiah; a relationship in which we continue to grow spiritually.  The author of Psalm 86 wanted to grow in his relationship with God which led him to write verses 11-12, “Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever.”

In Galatians 5:25 Paul wrote, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” To get an idea of what he had in mind let’s go back to verses 22-23 where he wrote a description of what happens when a person is walking in step with the Holy Spirit., “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

Colossians 3:12-15 gives us more instruction about what it means to be in step with the Lord. “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.”

Psalm 1:1-3 tells of the twofold blessing that faith gives.  “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.” Not only does walking with the Lord give the blessings of faith, hope, strength, and salvation; walking with the Lord enables us to be fruitful in helping others enter into that relationship for themselves.

2 Corinthians 5:17-21 reminds us, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” When a person is in Christ, they have the opportunity, and receive the wisdom and power to stop walking in step with the world and to be reconciled with God. Without Christ we are bound to our sins but he took upon himself the sins of all who believe in him. That is what makes reconciliation possible.

Not only are we reconciled with God through faith in Jesus, by faith we become part of his eternal family. The Bible calls Jesus Emmanuel which means God with us. In John 17:6 Jesus said, “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word.” Jesus not only came into the world to reveal God to us, he also came to reveal and fulfill God’s salvation plan for us. Verse 9 tells more about his concern for us.  It says, “I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours.” Not only was he praying for his followers at that time, Romans 8:34 tells us that he is now in heaven still interceding on our behalf. John 17:11 contains Jesus’ prayer for the ongoing protection of believers.  It says, “I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name — the name you gave me — so that they may be one as we are one.” Through faith in Jesus we receive a new family name, we become his sisters and brothers, his family. Whatever might happen, if you have accepted Jesus as your Savior, you are a child of God and nothing in all of creation can change that. With that hope as our foundation we can continue to live out of step with everyone who denies the truth of God and, by walking with the Lord, lead at least some to eternal life.

John 17:15-19 continues Jesus’ prayer for us. It says, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.”

What are you in step with, secular values, or God? What are you in step with, fear of people, of reverence for God? Jesus said in Matthew 7:13-14 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” When people see the way you are living, what will your steps suggest to them?  Will your example lead others to the narrow gate that leads to eternal life? Or the wide gate that does not? In the light of eternity, it is a good thing to be out of step with the world. Amen.