Sermon Thirty Seven Satan’s tricks

john                                     audio clip

 

Have you ever had a trick played on you? It is horrible isn’t it  – the moment when everyone else know the joke and you are the butt of it. Sometimes we can feel like our entire life is someone else’s joke at our expense. We lose our job so we can’t pay the rent then because of that we end up on the streets and then because we don’t have an address we can’t get help. So we spiral down into an ever dark world, hope leaves us, depression descends.

What if you knew Christ and all this happened, how would you cope with all this. With each thing that happened Satan would be telling you that he can give you joy. It would take a strong faith to withstand all the above and not to succumb to the devil in thought.

Wesley in this sermon points out all the different ways (more than there is stars in the sky) that Satan tries to turn us back to the world and away from God.

Satan as killjoy, trying to take the joy out of us. Have you ever taken a body blow, emotionally. They hurt, really hurt. But they can floor you without Christ in your life. With Christ they might knock you but you can get back up again. Well Satan doesn’t want you to back up again so he tries to tell you to not bother about that devotion, sure it won’t make a difference will it?

Satan attacks our peace, “you are not holy enough, you are too sinful, you need to do better first” Well of course we know we are not good enough, only God is good and we have that propensity to sin. But if we wait until we are clean we will never get there. We are only cleaned by the blood of Christ we cannot do it on our own.

Satan knows scripture and he will attempt to skew it to his advantage so we must hold fast to the truth and if we feel overwhelmed find someone to help you. That is why fellowship and community is so important. I was talking to someone who got saved in 1973 last week and they were saying how they needed to go to prayer group on Tuesday, they needed that fellowship and community.

When we get sick or we are in pain, Satan chooses this moment to really hone the attack. Whatever he has tried before and failed, he rallies his troops now, in your weakened state you can listen to the lies or you can choose not to.

Satan is a tricky tricker, but we just need to hold fast to the Truth. Don’t ever complain about God, talk to him, if you have a complaint take it to him. If you grumble outside of that, you might send another believer off on a tangent. Some questions cannot have answers yet. There is mystery around them. We have to learn to be like Job happy with the unanswered questions, content to sit in a desperate situation but know the joy of Jesus. Our lives are more arthouse than hallmark. We have to learn as ask the right questions and thank full for it. We are here for such a short time and we have the assurance of knowing we will have answers one day.

Sermon Thirty Six Wandering thoughts

john                                                       audio clip

Well this one was written for me without a shadow of a doubt. My mind wanders all the time. Even whilst I was recording this sermon and putting effort into the pace and tone I was thinking of other things.

To me they are the distractions that stop us from being fully focused on Kingdom work and the King. So for me as I write this, or the reading, or the recording, it is the things that stop me from achieving the end.

Today has been a really tough day. On paper I was gifted an entire day from 8:50am to 7:45pm to study and get many sermons done however my blue legs began to itch so I took an antihistamine on an empty belly and I might as well of passed out because I missed four hours, not sure where they went.

I don’t think of these distractions as things of the devil. It is usually something I do or read reminds me of something else and I go following that rabbit into the warren. If we imagine thoughts as bubbles, when we are focused on God each bubble that collides with another makes a bigger bubble. So we could have seen a passage of scripture many times but suddenly it makes sense in another way that we hadn’t thought of before. This association of ideas and sometimes that is where new imaginative ways of doing things or saying things can come up.

Now if these wandering thoughts took us into sinful thought that is entirely different and should be avoided. I have a friend who gave me a very simple cure because he knew I struggled in one area and it really does work. I like JB Philips paraphrasing of the verse 2 Corinthians 10:5 –

We even fight to capture every thought

until it acknowledges the authority of Christ.

So my friend says physically reach up to your forehead and imagine capturing the thought and asking Christ to imprison it. So as soon as the mere hint of it starts I give to the Lord to take care of.

In this world there are so many distractions, so many things to take us away from our focus. But no one said it would be easy and so as long as we are moving forward and not distracted by the world those wandering thoughts will be sound thoughts that pop into bigger ones.

Prayer is a powerful weapon against sinful thought, whenever we feel our thoughts wandering we should pray, this gets us back on right thinking. Other people can distract us, things can distract us. Surrounding it in prayer, along with the fruit of the Spirit, just tap into what we have been given to deal with this wandering thoughts.

Don’t squander

The mind you’ve been given

Thoughts wander

Do they need to be forgiven

Before you digress

Capture that wandering  thought

Give it to Jesus to oppress

Think of the change that’s been wrought

 

 

Sermon Thirty Five Christian perfection

john                                                             audio clip

This is such a long sermon, even in comparison with other long ones of Wesley. And I have to say not very helpful. I feel like the child who just can’t reach the cookie jar. In one sermon he has put a downer on everyone who considers themselves Christian.

WHY?

Because he says that if we are guided by the Holy Spirit we cannot sin. He uses lots of scripture both from the Old and New Testament to back up his argument. And it sounds peachy. We are Christian and therefore we do not sin. But hands up those who don’t. Never have even the beginning of a bad thought about someone?

He outlines how we are not perfect and uses the example of us not having full knowledge, the Trinity is a huge mystery to us for example. We are fallible, God is not. The Bible is infallible, we are not. We make mistakes.

Actually I feel like the cookie jar has been taken out of my hands. If I follow with Wesley’s theology I should be perfect. And I am not. I follow the law of the land, I follow the law of God but I live in a state of grace which means that my way of following those laws is different to a non-believer.

I follow them as part of the love that pours down on me, as I live with the gifts given and the fruit of the Spirit there are some sins that I couldn’t do without wrenching myself from the Lord’s arms. So why would I do that?

Everyday I am honed a little bit more, another aspect of my character needs some work. Today it was my propensity to sit and sleep rather than do something active to freshen my dull mind. I was struck by lethargy at the very time when I need to be sharp.

Wesley wrote a book about Christian perfection too, it was a major focus of his life. He believed we could attain perfection.

Now when God looks at us through the lens of Jesus we are washed clean and spotless, we are perfect in His eyes because he is looking through the blood of Christ.

God is not grim or a cosmic killjoy, if I were to get hung up on the Law, the sins I would lose my joy, that beautiful gift from God. We are free from the chains of sin and when we do sin we are immediately sorry, we throw ourselves on God’s mercy.

God gave to us a new nature, He put another principle into us, a third part of a perfective constitution; we have the spirit put into us, to be a part of us, as properly to produce actions of a holy life, as the soul of man in the body does produce the natural. God hath exalted human nature, and made it in the person of Jesus Christ, to sit above the highest seat of angels, and the angels are made ministering spirits, ever since their Lord became our brother. Jeremy Taylor 1652

Wesley therefore was not the only one talking about perfection. I get images of people not quite walking on the ground and ice cream. Taylor is talking about the perfect Spirit living within us and Wesley suggests that because the perfect Spirit is within us we cannot sin if we want the Spirit to stay. There is a tension within us, our human nature and the Spirit guiding us. We are sinful living in a broken world but the Spirit gives us the option of a new way of living.

It is but a very little while that our spirits shall be crusht and clogged with these heavy and sluggish bodies; at the resurrection they shall be refined from all dregs of corruption, and become spiritual, and incorruptible, and glorious, and every way suited to the activity and perfection of a glorified soul and the ‘spirits of just men made perfect. Tillotson 1652

Tillotson argues that it is at death this perfection occurs, I think but open to others interpretations. He goes on:

‘Now the God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus Christ, the great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make us perfect in every good work to do his will, working in us always that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever. Amen.’ Tillotson 1652

There is a movement here, a progressing. My friend has the phrase, “Work in Progress” always in her mind and quotes it frequently when we mess up. I can just see the words forming on her lips. God forgives us so much, I know he has endless mercy and grace and sometimes I understand that in a very personal way. It isn’t fair, if things were fair I would be heading to hell.

Recently I have discovered there are public sins, the ones that put you in the spotlight, that people have an opinion about where you went wrong, what you should do about it etc. Lots of human judgement and tsk tsking. And then there are ones that no one human knows about. Those are the ones that are a barrier to even attempting to reach perfection.

Some people sit with these secret sins, thinking that if no one human knows, sure it will be alright. Some people worry themselves about them but do nothing about them. Others struggle with them being unable to be free of them and others fall at the feet of the Cross and move onward and forward to that hope of perfection, the way the Lord sees us.

So no, at this moment in time on this issue I do not concur with John, would love to talk it over with him so he could explain it better so I might understand. Doctor, I need a lift…

Sermon Thirty Four The catholic spirit

john                                                                  audio clip

 

Denominations, no denominations, my denomination, your denomination. Do they matter? Are the differences the things we think of?

Well Wesley says not. Wesley suggests a very simple formula to reach out across the barriers of denomination to make friends. We are all together the melting pot that is the body of Christ.

If we put aside our differences of ritual and worship practice and look into each other’s hearts then we find this catholic spirit that is borne out of our love for each other. That universal love that is a gift from God because first he loved us. That love that allows us to accept we don’t all think alike but we have a unity of spirit. There are small differences but loads of commonality.

  1. Is your heart right with God?
  2. Do you believe in God?
  3. Do you acknowledge his greatness, wisdom and power, his justice, mercy and truth?
  4. Do you accept His authority governing everything for His glory and the good of all who love Him?
  5. Do you live each day trusting in Him, even though you can see Him?
  6. Do you believe in our Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God, crucified for us?
  7. Does he live in your heart by faith?
  8. Have you decided to put your faith in Him, rather than trusting in your own works as the way to salvation?
  9. Do you ask Him for help in living the Christian life of faith which leads to eternal life?
  10. Do you love God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength?
  11. Does God give you complete happiness?
  12. Do you continually praise Him and give Him thanks?
  13. With God as the centre of all your desires, are you laying up treasure in heaven and counting your earthly possessions as worthless?
  14. Has the love of God conquered your love for earthly things?
  15. Are you working for God?
  16. Are you concentrating on doing His work?
  17. Is all your conversation and business focused on glorifying God in everything, giving thanks to Him in Jesus’ name?
  18. Does God’s love make you want to serve him with respect?
  19. Which are you more afraid of – going to hell or displeasing God?
  20. Do you hate evil?

Simple innit, like.

Wow, that is one tough line of questions, search my heart O God, make me ever true.

But yes, I can honestly say yes to all except nineteen and that isn’t a yes no answer!

What about you?

I am not asking you to agree with me about hymns or prayers or language or style of preaching. Can you say yes to all these questions?

Then no matter what church you go to, we can shake hands, we have more in common to glorify His name than things of difference in the way we worship.

Giving the hand does not mean I will try and convert you to my way of doing things or vice versa. But there is so much “world” and so little “Christian” we have to work alongside each other, not keeping score but helping each other along.

love you pray for you, love me, pray for me, love together, pray together, Christians together.

Sermon Thirty Three Don’t be a bigot

john                                      audio clip 

 

Most of the titles for Wesley’s sermons are bland or kind or inoffensive but here we know he is going to be digging deep into our hearts. Bigotry is rife in the world and in the church and even in this sermon. There are some 18th century, empire thinking, sweeping statements made about whole swathes of populations. Giving Wesley his due, he does mention the atrocities done by his own country in the name of God, but mainly he focuses on others.

Can someone cast out demons? Do people have demons within? Wesley argues that there was a time for demons and now in his modern world there is no need and the Devil has changed his methods instead of superstition and idolatry he points us to self worship, pride, greed and gluttony.

He argues that the Devil, who we know rules this world, uses different ways of ruling depending on the country. The Devil chains us to sin, not allowing the light, who is Christ be seen in our lives.

I will ignore his pontifications on different populations because to me they don’t sit right and also his ideas on how others ought to preach, I don’t see the relevance in a sermon for this.

I will however focus on what for me is the main point of the sermon.

DO YOU BELONG

The scripture reference is from Mark 9:

38 “Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”

39 “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me,

He was not one of us. Not in our club. Not part of our sect. Not European. Not English speaking. Not Irish. How often in your life have you felt you don’t belong?

I hate it when groups norm because I am never in the norm. I like chaotic, disparate groups that come together for a common aim and then disband. I used to play football (oh I love that game) and brought some of my fitter mates along. One of my mates wouldn’t come at all. I am not part of that, she said. Another one was kicked out because she was not “one of us.” Should I have tried to reason with them, ask them why me and not them? Perhaps I should’ve put up a fight, or aided them in their fight. They didn’t belong, they were outsiders and not allowed to participate based on one criteria. I, the non-national, the unfittest of the three was accepted but they weren’t.

They were the women that in those days were talked about in hushed tones, the ones who were not invited to anything. One more thing to set them apart from everyone else. I have another mate and we concur that it is better to go in smiling and talk about the weather and be grateful for each crumb of a kind word we receive. We each time we have to face this brick wall of hostility, smile, because over time brick walls crumble and nature tumbles into the space. We may never be accepted, but we are tolerated.

I went to a funeral, I travelled to another country and took a place in the pew. Behind me, my childhood best friend’s parents turned to each other and said “What’s she doing here?”

I love now because first the dead person whose funeral I attended loved me. Loved me in spite of the impossible situation we found ourselves in, loved me in spite of the horror of the situation that neither of us understood, it was not of our making but we were on different sides of a chasm of hurt and lies and betrayal and abuse and horrific, horrific things. But we still loved.

I love now because God loved them and they showed that light of Christ to me which enabled me to turn and seek that love of God for myself.

I was in a church and a place where I did not belong, that was made perfectly clear to me. But the person I was remembering was a person who I could turn to when my whole life turned upside down, who would sing lullabies to me of Jesus’ love for me. We belonged.

Belonging is important, I have found my belonging  now, safe in the arms of the King.

The casting out of demons is still a contentious issue because there is the need for proof, even John Wesley calls for that. He says the proof is 1. That the person was a notorious sinner 2. Now they are not and living a Christian life and 3. The change was made by hearing someone preach.

What is a notorious sinner?

I am not going to answer that. What a responsibility on those who preach! But that is what we do, we preach to bring lost souls to Christ. People can’t know they can be saved if we don’t tell them.

Wesley goes on to extoll the virtues of the laity in preaching. His mum, Susanna, strongly suggested (you have to read about her to know what this means) the use of lay preachers, ecclesiastically unordained people to preach the word of God in their itinerant ministry. Now John Wesley could’ve said no but he was open to it and open to women preaching. Psalm 139 –

23 Search me, God, and know my heart;

test me and know my anxious thoughts.

24 See if there is any offensive way in me,

and lead me in the way everlasting.

We are all part of one big chaotic family, made up of people with differences who come together ignoring the differences to love to fellowship to belong because God first loved us. We love