Well, a week has past, how is your faith? is it still the same level as last week? Did anyone seek God this week. Did you leave here on Sunday and by Monday allow the distractions of the world, to blind you of the true gift of God’s love in your life. A loving wife or husband, healthy children and gorgeous grandchildren in your life making you smile and laugh.
Last week, we understood through the scripture, the importance of focusing on Christ and his teachings, enabling us to feel peace, knowing God is alive and working for us, with us in our lives.
I closed urging you to be a child in your looking for God and asked you to seek God alone, and to hand your life over to him.
It was not an easy task? Regardless a task I hope you at least considered. As part of our faith, is trusting our lives to God. Handing our lives over to him. Surrendering to him.
But we as humans, desire to control and we do everything to control our own lives except actually have any real control. We can see this at the beginning in Genesis, where Adam and Eve choose to eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge of right and wrong. Why, So they could have control and be in control. Self satisfaction.
God walked in the garden looking for them after wards, and they hid. Why? I believe It was an attempt at controlling the situation. What were they controlling? Their fear of the unknown and their current circumstances in life.
GOD called out to them, where are you?
Adam, replied back, I heard you in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.
We know the rest of the story. But I want to focus here for a moment. Adam hid I believed, because, this was his attempt at controlling the situation he now found himself in. He hid, which took thought and action to accomplish. Why hide, to give him more time to think of what he should do next. Weigh up his options. How will I get out of this mess? Fooling himself into believe he could control the situation.
Today, this action is seen by armed offenders initiating sieges in their homes. An attempt of control. but we all know they have nowhere to go.
Adam, chooses not to ignore God and He replied that, he was naked, so we know, he knew he had sinned. He opted for the honest approach, yet Regardless, Adams human concern took over and his trust in God had taken a back seat, to his attempt to control his life, which we clearly see he had no control over and he was making it up as he was going along according to, what was best for himself.
It is further reinforced when God asked Adam, have you eaten from the tree I commanded you not to eat from., Adam replied, “it was the woman you put here with me, she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it. Adam was now focused on self-preservation, trying to control his part in displeasing God. Making him appear less naughty. Eve took the same approach, blaming the snake for tricking her.
Can you see, the immediate victim mentality, the human feeling of being wronged against to justify and help us in some blind way regain control in our lives to justify our actions as a result of our need to control, how we are seen, how we act. As such we have created the necessity to justify ourselves to others to control their thoughts of us.
I turn up late to a party, Oh sorry I’m late, I had to.. insert whatever you think is believable.
In one of my previous sermons I apologised at the beginning, for not allocating enough time through the week in my preparation. Why? To control, in case it was not good, I had a fall-back plan already to go, to make sure you still liked me. I look back at that now, and shake my head, my self-pride got the better of me.
Like it has a tendency to do to all of us. As we want to think we are in control and should be in control. All around us the world tells us to be in control.
Ads for taking control of your financial future. Take control of your happiness, book a holiday, by a self help book..
However, the lack of control we have in the grand scheme of our lives is a common theme in the bible and it always ends in the same way, the humbling recognition that God is in control.
Again referring to Genesis, the story of Joseph, being sold as a slave by his brothers, Joseph was not in control then, He didn’t agree to it, this wasn’t something he planned. The only thing Joseph was in control of, was his faith and trust in God.
I myself, didn’t plan on being a policeman, let alone preaching the word of God in church, or settling in Bulahdelah to raise a family.
I grew up pretending I was an elite SAS soldier in my backyard with a toy rifle, saving the world, that’s what I wanted to do. Then in my teenage years, I had the plan and dream of being a famous football player for my team the St George Dragons.
If I was in control, the life I have now, which I cherish and praise god everyday for, would not be my reality. I never had the dream or yearning to be a policeman. It just happened, just like giving sermons at Church and studying a cert 4 in ministry. It just happened… So, If I am not in control of my life, who is?
Like the ending of Josephs story in Genesis, I am amazed how a life can perfectly all come together, all part of Gods plan. Not our own.
Reflect on your life, all the planning you have done, the ideas you’ve had, what you previously thought you wanted. To what you have.
Looking deeper at Joseph story, it shows us an insight to the answer of living by faith, and faith alone. How our relationship with Christ is meant to be in a world where we are not in control yet so easily distract ourselves into believing and thinking we are, in some way, in control or having a need to be in control.
The point I want you all to see is Joseph’s acceptance and submission to Gods will, is a huge part of our faith, that we need to practice, and come to terms with, to experience peace and the worldly love and Joy, that Christ puts in our hearts and brings to our lives.
Without accepting God is in control of our lives and the submission to Gods will in our lives, we will not experience true peace, and our faith is not where it should be. We will continue in a world of despair, hopelessness and restlessness, its written in Proverbs 16:9, The heart of man plans his way, but the lord establishes his steps.
My mother, with her permission to speak about her, is a recovering alcoholic. And guess what, I am so proud and grateful that she is. I applaud her recognition for identifying her problem with alcohol and I stand and praise her courage for living sober for the past 30 years, with the temptation of having a taste of alcohol around her and in her life.
Her problem, with alcohol began with my mum trying to find peace, and her place, in the world, as a result of experiences she had no control over. These feelings kept her away from true joy and love and its source God.
Instead, her desire to control, herself will, kept her focused on alcohol for her comfort and happiness. Her own attempt of hiding in the garden, trying to control her life, self-medicating, whilst dealing with a pain and yearning for true peace that no matter how much she drank, would never fill. Like Adam, my mother chose to stand up and show herself to God.
I am blessed, that Alcoholic Anonymous, has Christian undertones, which enabled my mother to build a solid foundation for her faith, she now has and the JOY and peace she experiences every day, with a burning heart for Jesus.
I mention my mother and her alcohol, as, it is very similar to our addiction to sin, just because none of us declare, we may have a problem with alcohol, it does not mean that none of us do not have a problem with sin, and the daily temptation it offers us to reach out and allow it into our minds and hearts, with the lust for greener pastures to satisfy our own attempts of controlling us and our search for peace, by making us believe we need to take control to ensure we are satisfied in life. The phrase the grass is always greener on the other side, is often said to reminds that we should be happy with what we have, yet many people each day, keep crossing over, in their attempts to control their happiness to prove it correct.
Have you ever seen a cow in a green paddock? But instead of feeding on the grass available and right under their feet, the Cows seems to find that the best tasting grass is the grass outside the fence line. The Cow ends up straining and stretching its neck and head often through barb wire, just to get at this grass. How can you not say, it is also trying to control its life by what it wants and thinks it needs, by eating that particular piece of grass, just at the tip of it’s tongue, the best grass in its mind.
But I assure you, once it gets it, and consumes it. It doesn’t make the cow full or quench the cow’s hunger, it realises it was just like the other grass and away he goes again, continuing its search for the best grass, restless, seeking a satisfying feed, trusting his own instincts to guide him, often to another section of fence line or worse an opportunity presents in the form of a broken fence, allowing the cow to wonder out of the paddocks safety and into harm’s way.
I can see our human behaviour is mirrored in that of the Cow. Not accepting and trusting in its owners, paddock to feed from, the cow like us, has an instinct to know better. And like us, when in trouble for getting out, the Cow, runs quickly back into the middle of the pack, to hide amongst the others.
Our Sinful desires and instinct to do what is best for me, as we know, can create terrible suffering and burdens in our lives.
Again like Adam in the garden, we need to stand up, recognise and Accept God is, God!
When an alcoholic stands up, and sees themselves honestly it is a huge moment. There are two roads, and it is life or death. Just like us as Christians. We too have two roads, believe or not. Again life and death the destinations. This is best pictured through Matthew 7, Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction. And those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
Ask any alcoholic, is recovery easy…NO they will tell you, its hard and some days you feel like giving up. Turning back to the wide gate, as it’s easier.
Jesus tells us, that following him will not be easy. Ask your self, is it easy being a Christian? I asked myself this question a while ago and I replied, yeah, I think so. I Go to church every Sunday, say my prayers, do the odd devotional in the morning. I’ve got it covered. The answer should be no.
Reflecting it Sounded like I was too complacent in my faith, walking with the large crowd through the wide gate, oblivious. If your faith feels too easy, you need to stand up out of the bush and personalise your relationship with Jesus. Starting today.
I’ll get you started on the narrow road, can you in prayer, alone with full meaning and from your heart, say, I love you, to God? I asked myself this question a few months ago. It made me stand up. It grabbed my attention and filled my mind with tough questions. This wasn’t easy. I even had a few conversations with God, stating, God, I want to say it and feel like I should say it, but I don’t want to say it if I don’t really mean it, plus you’d know I don’t mean it and it would be awkward. I wanted to say It and really mean it. It Reminded my of high school relationships. Is that what I thought my relationship with god was?
This went on for a few days in my mind, and I kept thinking, why do I love my mum, dad, wife, kids and not want to say I love you to God. Thinking about why I loved my family, I started listing things out, they care for me, they provide love to me, they are there when I need them and will do whatever they can for me. They give me comfort, happiness. They make me feel safe and secure. As I was thinking, I couldn’t help but feel the warmth I had as a father towards my children, and although I discipline them, I love them and do all things for them. I then reflected how special it is when the kids say I love you to me. I often see God as the perfect father, to all of us. I realised then, that I have love in my life because of God. Thanks again to scripture, 1 John 4:16 Whoever lives in love, lives in God and God in them.
This is what God has given me and does for me, and, he has been there from the beginning of my life working for me, even before I believed. Just like each and every one of you. Go back in your minds, and think of the past, yeah sure, bad things happened, out of your control, even though you probably did your very best to prevent such events. But you got through it. You are here today! God is good and in control.
So why did I find it awkward to say I love you to God. I say I love coffee and I love the dragons, so easily. Why couldn’t I say it to God. Because its real! And because it means, you have to place all your trust in him, YOU have to hand over your control. You surrender yourself to his will. And that is what is scary for us.
Since creation, we have a natural instinct to want to be in control. The fear of the unknown is daunting. But as Christians, we need to let go of our life and hand it over to God. Then you will truly experience the love, peace and comfort God provides.
Welcome to the Narrow road people.
Let these words from 1 John ch 4 give you encouragement and help you, There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear. Because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
Don’t be afraid, hand your life over to God.
Its fearful at times being honest to ourselves and to God. But honesty is part of having a personal relationship with God. God wants your honesty. Are you prepared to give him that?
Speaking of my mum before, and the similarities between alcohol and sin, are any of you aware of the first three steps of the AA, 12 step program to recovery are,
1 We admit we are powerless over alcohol, that our lives have become unmanageable.
2 Believe there is a power greater than us that can restore us to sanity
3 Make a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understand him.
How mush does it resonate with us as Christians dealing with the disease of Sin in our lives.
Step 3 played a particularly big part in my life, I remember going to school one day asking my mum a question as I was worried about the prefect elections that day, as I like most kids wanted to be a prefect. My mum turned to me in the car and said, if its meant be, it will be, all you can do is try your best darling, and hand over the rest, too who? God and she cupped her hands and showed me what she does every morning and still does to this day.
From this point on, hand it over, became a common phrase in my house. I didn’t fully understand the meaning of it and the mechanics behind it as I do now, but I know it gave me more than just Peace and comfort that morning and taking the worry I had, away, It also gave me confidence. This is also directly linked to Scripture
Psalm 55:22, Cast your burdens on the Lord and he will sustain you.
Peter 5:7 Casting all your anxieties on him, Because he cares for you.
We all need to choose to stand up, naked, before God like Adam. Like my mum also did as part of her recovery and be honest before him. Which takes courage! Yet many choose the easier option to remain hidden in the bushes of life’s distractions, behind human material rewards, treasures and fruits of the world, aware that god is there, but giving him no second thought, walking towards the wide gate.
By standing up, like Adam, we establish our personal relationship with God through accepting who is he. We choose to accept and see God as our heavenly father and creator, by acknowledging that he is in control. We accept that we are sinners by our very nature, all to easily happy to act with our own self interests at heart. That we are not perfect, and never will be in this life. No matter how many good deeds we tick off our list.
Standing naked, we declare before him, I’ll do it your way and not my way.
On the 2nd September 1945, World War 2, officially ended, with the Japanese signing an unconditional surrender on board the USS Missouri.
This moment in the history of our world us is important as we can learn so much from the events that led up to the unconditional surrender of Japan.
In the summer of 1945, the defeat of Japan was a foregone conclusion. By the end of June, the country and its economy was on the brink of collapse. An allied ground assault was being organised for November, which promised further great losses of human life. However, the Atomic bomb was developed and after a successful test was ready to be used in the war. On July 16, the Allies issued the Potsdam declaration. For the unconditional surrender of the Japanese imperial forces. Failure to comply would result in the inevitable and complete destruction of the Japanese forces and its homeland.
On July 28, the Japanese Prime Minister Suzuki told the press, his government was “paying no attention” to the Allied ultimatum. On August 6, a US bomber dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Killing 80,000 people. The event caused some in the Japanese war council to favour the surrender. However, the majority voted to resist the unconditional surrender. 3 days later, US dropped the second atomic bomb on Nagasaki.
On August 10th the Japanese war council voted to accept the unconditional surrender. On the 15 August a coup was attempted from within the Japanese’s government not happy with the surrender, however the coup was nullified, and the Emperor declared on National radio that Japan Surrenders unconditionally.
The reason I mention this today, is that I can see ourselves as Japan refusing to admit defeat. Battling on in situations we have no control over, yet still justifying what we are doing is the best and only option in the circumstances of our lives.
Human concern of pride and its inability to surrender its control to another. Japan facing defeat, still attempted to control its own destiny, instead of accepting peace. Even after the first atomic bomb was dropped, they still voted not to surrender. And even after the second one was dropped and they voted to surrender, some in the government attempted a coup to continue the fight.
It’s incredible what people will do to in their attempts of control and trusting there self-will as their own God like authority. As concern of self-pride and satisfaction in your life, brings nothing but, restlessness, stress, death and destruction and chaos to your life.
We then observe when Japan was willing to stand up and surrender themselves it was on the basis of an unconditional surrender and they had to accept that. There was no room for negotiating.
It was a complete submission and surrender to the allied forces. They knowingly gave up their control of their country. They had tried their way and it ended in misery. They now accepted the situation they were in for what it was.
On accepting the unconditional surrender, The Emperor, humbly was quoted in his surrender speech on radio to his citizens. “We have resolved to pave the way for grand peace, for all the generations to come, by enduring the unendurable and suffering what is insufferable.”
I believe this quote is beautiful and helps us to tie together, our unconditional surrender we are required to make to God, so we to can pave the way to allow peace in our lives and the generations to come, enduring what life throws out us and at times causes us to suffer.
But understand this surrender, Like japan accepted, is an unconditional surrender. We too are required to surrender ourselves, unconditionally to God. Without negotiating. By surrendering to God, we acknowledge he is in control and that we choose to surrender to God to pave the way for peace in our lives, to rebuild ourselves with Gods help through his words.
By acknowledging God is in control, and not us, it is then easy for us to submit to his will and understand his teachings. I encourage you all, to have a look at your faith and in the words from James 1:22-24, Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.
What words, straight to the point, Psalm 25 Lord I put my life in your hands. I trust in you, my God and I will not be disappointed,
The Wide path is easy to get lost in. As is also, the blindness created by self-pride and will, for our own human concern to attempt to control our lives. It’s easy to know God is there, but knowing, is not having a relationship with him.
I want you all to leave here today, with the message that the best thing we can do as Christians, is through our faith, trust, accept and surrender to Gods will, with full confidence, to try our best and hand over the rest!